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THE ALIBI 



namxt 

NEW YORK 
«0C1CTT UMAKY 




What was thai ? Recoiling' Slayton gave ear . 
A step ? See page 40 



THE ALIBI 



BY 

GEORGE ALLAN ENGLAND 



Author of "Darkness and Dawn/' etc. 



Witk aJrtmHspUa hy 
MODEST STEIN 




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BOSTON 
SMALL, MAYNARD & COMPANY 

PUBLISHERS 



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Copyi^ght, 1916 
Bt small, MAYNARD Se COMPANY 

(iHCOaMBATUl) 



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THE 


BEST PAL 


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EVER HAD 



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CONTENTS 



CHAPTER 

I 

II 

III 

IV 

V 

VI 

VII 

VIII 

IX 

X 

XI 

XII 

XIII 

XIV 

XV 

XVI 

XVII 

XVIII 

XIX 

XX 

XXI 

XXII 

XXIII 

XXIV 

XXV 

XXVI 

XXVII 

XXVIII 



PAGE 

The Balance of Disaster i 

" As A Bird into the Net " 8 

Greek Gifts 14 

The Dawning of an Evil Plan .... 22 

The Robbery 30 

Fate Mocks and Tempts 41 

The "Plant" 51 

Slayton Faces the City 60 

The Trap Opens 71 

The Preliminary Investigation .... 79 

The Finger of Evidence 86 

Inquisition 98 

The Trap is Sprung 109 

Faith Sublime, and a Letter 117 

Faith Sublime 125 

Life Insurance 141 

The Battle Opens 151 

The Bitter Fight 162 

The Verdict 176 

Number 3265 185 

A Poisoned Spirit 195 

A Visit and a Prophecy 203 

Riverside Drive and Sing Sing . . . .212 

The Getaway 225 

Close to the Arch-Enemy 236 

The Discovery 246 

Trapped? 253 

A Voice in the Night 265 



■ V 



CONTENTS 

CHAPTEK PACK 

XXIX In the Beach-comber's Shack 275 

XXX A Life-OS-Death Chance 286 

XXXI Flight 299 

XXXII In Hiding 307 

XXXIII A Glimpse of Paradise 315 

XXXIV Two Men and a Problem 325 

XXXV When Science Lies 334 

XXXVI A Summons from Headquarters .... 341 

XXXVII Another Summoning 349 

XXXVIII The Gates of Paradise 356 



THE ALIBI 



THE ALIBI 

CHAPTER I 

THE BALANCE OF DISASTER 

BACK and forth, back and forth a man was pacing the 
floor, caught in the toils of the inexorable catastrophe 
that now impended close. Lashed by fear, hounded 
by fate, up and down the room he turned, hemmed by walls 
of disaster. His feet, now impacting on the polished floor, 
now noiseless over the rugs, kept time to the mechanical 
repetition of the thought : " Ruin, ruin, ruin ! " that ebbed 
and flowed in his racked brain. 

Haggard and wan he paced with rumpled hair and eyes 
whose bloodshot glance bespoke long vigils. Save for his 
footfall and the busy impertinence of the clock that would 
soon toll midnight, the house — the house of Walter Haynes 
Slayton, cashier, was still. A numbing silence gfripped it — 
a silence that could almost be heard, so deep it was. Out- 
side, hardly a sound disturbed the frosty November night, 
now moonlit, now cloudy, that brooded over the suburban 
solitude of Oakwood Heights. 

Stillness without, silence within. The night seemed wait- 
ing, big with woe. Yet through all the man's stress and tor- 
ment passed a flicker of relief that his wife had not yet 
returned. In view of the approaching disaster, her absence 
on a visit was a signal blessing. His one wish now was that 
she might remain away till something could be done to stem 
the tides of ruin. 



2 THE ALIBI 

Back and forth — up and down — Then suddenly the 
man stopped, livid, and dashed his fist against his brow and 
groaned. Chill though the house had become, he felt no 
cold. He burned with inward fires. A fever parched his 
lips and ravaged his blood. For to-morrow ■ — to-morrow 
was his last day of grace. 

" Liabilities, a hundred and eight thousand," he huskily 
articulated. " Assets — " 

He snapped his trembling fingers. 

" Not worth that! And Jarboe — confound him, I wish 
I had him here to-night 1 Jarboe's note — " 

Walter Slayton cast a despairing look about his library, a 
look that minded one of the hunted glare of a trapped, 
prisoned animal. 

" Jarboe I " he muttered. " He's reached his limit at last. 
He's surely going to put me through, this timet" 

With a curse he turned toward his desk, all covered with 
neatly arranged papers. One of the supreme rules of life 
for the cashier of the Powhatan National Bank was perfect 
order in all things. Not even this crisis could disturb his 
method, the habit of a lifetime. 

Now even in the arrangement of the very papers that 
spelled complete annihilation, irreparable disaster and in all 
probability a frightful term in Sing Sing, his orderly arrange- 
ment of the data in chronological sequence was perfect. 
Month by month and year by year the horrible liabilities were 
sorted and tabulated, forming a trap, a web, a network of 
catastrophe. 

He knew them all by heart, every smallest one. How 
long he had lived with them ever in his thoughts, seen them 
in his dreams, found them obtruding between his vision and 
every other thing — even between him and his wife's face I 
Yes, right well did he know those papers on that desk. And 
best of all, he knew the Jarboe letter, keystone of the infa- 



THE BALANCE OF DISASTER 3 

mous arch. Once that arch should break no power on earth 
could avert a hideous collapse of the whole structure, bury- 
ing him forever beneath the ruins. 

In fingers that shook as with ague, under the glow of the 
electric lamp, Sla3rton picked up the trial balance he had 
struck, the reckoning of his terrible involvement, the sum- 
total of disaster. 

" This is the end," said he in a dull, flat tone. " The end 
of eleven years of torment ! The note I owe Jarboe will be 
the bomb that will blow the whole structure into the air. 
This thing mustn't happen ! It can't — it shall not ! " 

Again he fell to pacing with the monotonous regularity of 
a prisoner in a cell. His tortured mind reverted to the first 
mistake, years and years ago, the first miscalculation, then 
swiftly ran along the well-remembered ways of progressive 
disaster, covered by a deeper and still deeper linking in the 
mire. Every struggle to free himself had only submerged 
him farther and more hopelessly. At times there had been 
hope; then fresh misfortunes had swamped him. 

And all those weary years the hideous farce of respecta- 
bility, of outward calm and prosperity, of impeccable rec- 
titude had had to be lived through. Worst of all, he had 
been obliged to face his wife with a smile when the heart 
had long since died in him. 

Again the man groaned in anguish. Better anything 
now, even the ultimate catastrophe, than such a life ! 

Better anything? Even the prison cell, the striped garb 
of infamy? The living death of the penitentiary? No, no, 
not that I Never that! He felt that come what might, he 
would battle on and on forever, if he could, before he would 
submit to that ! 

Yet the Jarboe. note was due to-morrow. It must be met 
in the morning. Eighty-four thousand dollars in cash must 
be paid. The last stand-off had been exhausted. No ex- 



4 THE ALIBI 

tension was possible. Cash was needed now — hard, cold, 
actual cash. 

A shudder gripped him. His lean and rather clerical- 
looking face — a pious-seeming (ace that had long been 
of sovereign value to him in his peculations — twitched 
nervously. Its pallor bore a ghastly tinge in the greenish 
light that seeped through the electric-light shade. He 
blinked ominously. The glint in his eyes spoke volumes of 
evil. 

This, he realized, was the crucial moment, the end of 
everything unless some bold play were made. In a kind 
of daze he stared at the merciless figures. He struck them 
with his Het. Nothing of all this must be known. The lie 
must still be lived 1 

His reputation, he knew, still stood intact. Nobody as 
yet even suspected him. As long as he could keep his hands 
on the books of the bank he might still be able to juggle the 
accounts. 

The one absolutely essential thing was to stave off the im- 
pending calamity of the morrow. It involved taking a long 
chance, but nothing else now remained to do. He still knew 
that a good fight remained in him. Before everything 
should collapse and they should drag him " up the nver," 
they should yet find how good a fight he could give them ! 

He shivered suddenly and drew back, glancing furtively 
about him as if the very walls had eyes. Qose-drawn 
though the shades were, he feared lest somebody might be 
spying on him. Over to the windows he strode and pulled 
the curtains down a little more. Then he returned again 
to his desk. 

His thoughts were beginning to clarify themselves a little. 
He realized that he would go to any length to pay that Jar- 
boe note. The Shylock should have his pound of fiesli. 
The last step should be taken and the last card played. 



THE BALANCE OF DISASTER 5 

Then if he lost, the crash he would make in going down 
would prove him at least no petty thief. 

Slayton flung down the balance again, and with a steadier 
hand unlocked and opened a little drawer at the right of the 
line of pigeon-holes that topped his desk. From this drawer 
he took an envelope, and from the envelope a paper with a 
few figures in carbon-copied typewriting. 

This paper he studied a moment imSer the light. It was 
one of two copies which alone existed in all the world. 
Chamberlain, president of the Powhatan, had the other one. 
Doubtless, thought Slayton, Chamberlain felt entirely safe. 
The cashier nodded satirically, and for the first time that 
night smiled. A wan, thin-lipped smile it was, saturnine 
and terrible to match his thoughts, as he studied the Open 
Sesame that would smooth his path. 

Now we're getting down to business," he murmured. 

It's a long shot, but there's a chance at least. Til have a 
chance to run ; I shan't be trapped and done to death like a 
caged rat A chance — that's all I want ! " 

He smote the table with decision. 

If he could only tide things over for a month or two all 
might yet be well. Hope revived in his face. A bolder 
look came into his eyes. He glanced round again, holding 
his breath to listen. Out on the front walk he seemed to 
have heard a sound. Keenly he gave ear. 

Nothing. 

He sneered savagely at himself. Could it be that he was 
getting nervous? With a strong effort he collected his 
forces. He f oldeif the precious slip of paper and tucked 
it into his pocketbook. Then, turning to a little cupboard 
in the comer by the fireplace, he took down a bottle and a 
glass. 

But he poured no liquor. His wiser judgment, infallibly 
sane, had quickly reasserted itself. 






6 THE ALIBI 

"Absolutely not'' he exclaimed. 

A clear brain and a steady hand would be needed to-night 
if ever in his life. 

"Eh? What's that? *' 

Swiftly he faced round. This time he felt positive he 
had heard a step on the walk. It seemed hesitant and timid ; 
but a htunan footstep had unmistakably fallen on the con- 
crete. 

"What the— devil?" 

Flash-quick, Slayton sprang to the desk, jerked open the 
big top drawer and swept all the damning papers into it. 
Just as he shut and locked it, the electric bell brrrrrr^d 
stridently in the hallway, making an astonishing racket in 
the tomblike stillness of the house. 

Savagely he faced the door with a " Plague take you ! " on 
his lips. " Butting in on me, the night of all nights when 
I've got to be let alone I *' 

Again the bell burst into violent alarm. With an oath 
more than half of fear — for Slayton's nerves, despite all 
he could do, were jumpy as a colt's — he stepped into the 
hall, Ustened acutely for a moment, and then approached 
the door. 

Outside he could hear an irregular tattoo of feet on the 
porch, sure sign of nervousness. Whatever might be for- 
ward, the visitor lacked calm self-possession. 

Slayton's fear lessened. If the other man were nervous 
that was all the more reason why he should not be. After 
all, nobody in the world had anything on him. He had al- 
ways managed to cover his tracks perfectly. Boldness and 
assurance were now invaluable assets for him. A grim 
smile curved his lips as he shot back the bolt and loosed 
the chain. 

He pressed a button. The porch-light flooded down a 
sudden radiance. Then he swung wide the door. 

At sight of the man standing there before him a sickening 



THE BALANCE OF DISASTER 



apprehension seized him. His mouth sagged open. Star- 
ing, he fell back a pace, his hand still gripping the big brass 
door-knob. 

"You, Mansfield?" he stammered. "What — what is 
it? What on earth do you want here at this time of 
night?" 



CHAPTER II 



*'as a bird into the net" 



THE newcomer, obviously agitated in the very highest 
degree, made no answer to this question, but stood in 
the doorway returning the other's stare. 

"Thank God, you — you're home!" he cried thickly. 
" Oh, thank God 1 " 

Under the downpour of light from above they formed 
a singular picture as they stood there, eye looking into eye, 
while the frosty vapors of their breath idled upward to- 
ward the light. A striking picture — the middle-aged cash- 
ier, wrinkled and disheveled, in his smoking-jacket and slip- 
pers; the young bank-clerk, immaculate and trim, in bal- 
macaan and olive-green felt hat. Different types in every 
way ; yet the community of some unusual emotion drew them 
both into the same category. 

Slay ton, a nerve-seasoned and ruseful man, pulled him- 
self together immediately. He thrust out a hand of wel- 
come. 

" Come in, Mansfield I " he ejaculated, cloaking his alarm 
behind a very natural astonishment. *' You certainly did 
surprise me. What's the row ? Anything gone wrong ? " 

The young man nodded, gulped and tried to speak. 
Words would not come. He seized Slayton's hand in a 
grip that, though trembling, still had good beef behind it. 
Slayton winced. 

" Here, here, Arthur ! " he protested, trying to force a 

laugh that rang wholly false. " Don't take my arm off ! 

What's up, anyhow ? " 

8 



"AS A BIRD INTO THE NET" 9 

"I — I want to see you ; want to talk to you a — a few 
minutes I " Mansfield succeeded in articulating. ** I beg 
your pardon for intruding at this — this ghastly hour and 
all that, but — but— " 

"Don't mention it, my dear fellow," Slayton returned 
with something of his usual suavity. 

Every second now he was recovering his aplomb. 

" Anything I can do to oblige you, at any hour of the day 
or night, I'll be glad to do," he continued. " But say, it's 
cold out here. Come in, Arthur; come in. We'll go into 
the library, and — " 

"By George! That's mighty good of you!" the young 
fellow interrupted. The sincerity of his gratitude was piti- 
able. 

He followed Slayton into the hall. The cashier's dis- 
cerning eye appraised him as wholly unstrung ; as clinging to 
the ragged edge of desperation. 

" You're mighty good 1 " the youngster repeated. " Fact 
is, Mr. Slayton, I — I've come to see you on — important 
business. It's — '* 

" You're in trouble ? In some kind of a scrape ? Is that 
it?'* 

The cashier's voice tried to convey deep apprehension; 
but in it vibrated a strange, malicious joy. 

Mansfield gulped hard and peered about him nervously 
as the outer door closed. 

"We're all alone here?" he whispered in trepidation. 

" Absolutely, my dear fellow. Now tell me ; what's the 
row? Speak frankly and — " 

" It goes no further ? " 

*' Not an inch ! " 

" I'm just a junior clerk at the bank, I know, and you're 
the cashier. You're — " 

" Never you mind about that, Arthur ! It's man to man 
here now ! " 



10 THE ALIBI 

The crafty glitter in Slayton's eye seemed to have 
intensified. A subtly sly look crept into his face. Did 
he so soon foresee some dim eventualities, some nebu- 
lous possibilities turning to his behoof? Who should 
say? 

His masklike expression of pietism grew dangerous and 
hard. On his pale lips the clerical smile widened. 

" Speak out, Arthur, my boy," he bade. " Speak plainly 
as man to man I " 

"I will! I must I" 

Mansfield passed a hand across his eyes. 

** Great Heavens, Mr. Slayton, there's not another soul — 
I could go to — for help ! " 

''Help? You need help?" 

'' Terribly I " 

"Why, what's wrong?" 

" Well, the fact is, I — I'm in a fix. A mighty bad fix, 
I guess. And I don't see any way out of it except to — " 

"To get my help?" 

" That's j ust it ! Will you help me ? " 

" I surely will, Arthur I Freely and gladly as if you were 
my own son. That's the greatest pleasure I have in life, 
lending a hand wherever I can 1 " 

A semblance of real sincerity made the dross of it seem 
almost real gold. Mansfield, in his intense agitation, ac- 
cepted the base metal as pure, and looked at the cashier with 
eyes of unspeakable gratitude. Slayton meanwhile was 
thinking fast. 

That singularly acute flair which for so many years had 
helped guide him through many a shallow, through many a 
perilous way, now told him that all his advantage lay paral- 
lel with this trouble of the junior clerk's. 

Could he but probe the matter to the bottom, learn its 
every ramification and fully win the young chap's confi- 
dence, great things might yet befall. A strong conviction 



"AS A BIRD INTO THE NET" 1 1 

rose in the cashier that 'he must lend a hand, or seem to ; for 
in this way, as in no other now, might lie safety for him- 
self. 

Boundless was his relief at realization that Mansfield's 
coming — at first glance so inopportune, so terrifying — 
might after all veer to his success. When he had first 
caught sight of the young fellow from the 'bank standing 
there on the front porch, a poignant dismay had assailed 
Slayton. Not even the appearance of a police officer, war- 
rant in hand, would have startled him so profoundly. 
Through having often already anticipated such a scene he 
had long ago resolved to discount its emotions and had 
schooled himself to calmness. But to be confronted at 
precisely this juncture by a man from the bank itself had 
very badly shaken him. 

Second thought told Slayton that the boy could, of course, 
know nothing of the vast, intricate and skilled system of 
theft in which he had become involved. But the mere sight 
of him had startled the cashier immeasurably. 

And now, hearing the young fellow's plea and beholding 
his obvious distress, a tremendous sense of easement swept 
across Sla3rton's soul. His fears vanished like a wisp of 
fog before the rising sun. 

"Then you will help me?" questioned Mansfield again 
with terrible eagerness. "You will, you will?" 

" By all means, my dear fellow ! That is, if I can." 

Slayton smiled aflFably with a glint of white teeth. Some- 
thing feline, something ominous lurked in that smile; but 
Mansfield, standing there pale and distraught before him, 
beheld only friendliness and benevolence in the cashier's 
face. 

"Thank Heaven for a friend like you I" the boy ex- 
claimed. 

His blue eyes brimmed up with tears of reaction after 
long stress. Once more he gripped the elder man's hand. 



12 THE ALIBI 

Slayton clapped him on the shoulder — a broad shoulder, 
and capable-looking. 

" Unload," said he. " Let's have it What's wrong, 
Arthur? Give me the whole story." 

"I willt" 

Arthur released his grip on the cashier's hand, took off 
his hat and flung it on the table, then paced a few steps up 
and down, much as Slayton had been pacing. The cashier's 
smile betrayed amusement now. To see another on the 
rack, was it not rare sport? 

His eye caught a reflection of himself in the broad mirror 
over the mantel. With quick satisfaction he noted that now 
he showed but few signs of perturbation. 

" Even the little success I've had in amateur theatricals," 
thought he, " is helping me now." 

He felt a sense of gratitude for that experience. It might 
yet stand him in good stead. 

Arthur stopped on the Tvg beside the table, confronted 
Slayton and squared himself for the confession that the 
cashier now foresensed. 

Mansfield's face showed strong lines, even though imma- 
ture and not yet wholly, formed — lines of nascent char- 
acter that bade fair to be one day powerful and dominant. 
His head poised itself well; the chin was firm and good, 
the nose broad at the parting of the brows, the eyes steady. 
A thatch of rather rebellious hair — yellow hair that con- 
trasted well with the blue eyes, hair that inclined to curl de- 
spite every effort to make it lie flat — crowned intelligent 
brows. 

This man, on the whole, stood well above the dead-level 
of humanity. And as Slayton appraised him more critically 
than ever before — for till now the cashier had noticed him 
as only one of three or four young clerks at the hank — 
and as he sensed the innate honesty and ingenuous frank- 
ness of the boy, a thrill of exultation warmed his cold heart. 



tt 



AS A BIRD INTO THE NET " 13 



i 



" Qay to my hand," thought he, " if I can only mold him 
as I must. Qay that will harden to adamant in time. Fate 
knew I needed him. Fate sent him. Fate is good I " 

Suddenly Arthur spoke. 

"I — I am a thief 1 " he blurted, in a terrible voice. 

"A—?" 

And Slayton, with well- feigned surprise, gripped the 
table-edge. 

"A — whatf' 

"A thief! There! Now you know the worst. You 
know all there is to know — except why I did it. When I 
say that, I say everything — the whole business. Fve stolen 
— stolen money from the bank. It isn't much, but that's 
no excuse. To me it's a lot — a terrible lot ! 

" It's more than I can pay for a year or two. But I'm 
going to pay it, every cent. Principal and interest! All I 
need is time — time, that's all. And so I come to you. 
You can help me through this. You can pull me out o' the 
mud and give me chance to make good. To make good and 
be a man again — honest — square. For God's sake, help 
me — help me I " 

His words, which had been rushing in a stream, grew 
choked and incoherent. They broke ; they ceased. Mans- 
field suddenly covered his face with both hands, dropped 
his head and stood there racked with anguish. His pallor, 
the tremors that shook him, the wordless groan that issued 
from his lips all told the story of his crucifixion. 

Unmoved, Slayton studied the young fellow with a cyn- 
ical coolness, much as if he had been a peculiar biological 
specimen impaled on a pin. Then the cashier nodded 
again, and once more the pale-lipped smile disclosed his 
teeth. 

" As a bird into the net of the fowler," thought he, " so 
art thou delivered unto my hand I " 




CHAPTER III 

GREEK GIFTS 

OME, come, my boy," said he, his voice seeming 
to speak volumes of friendly comfort. ** Brace 
up! Things can't be half so bad as you try to 
make out. You're unnerved, half -hysterical, far from your- 
self. You're exaggerating the trouble, whatever it is. 
There'll be a way out — there must be. If there isn't, I'll 
make one for you 1 " 

Overcome, Arthur clung to the other's arm. 

*'I — I knew you would!" he managed to articulate. 
" If you ever succeed in getting me out of this, I'll owe you 
a debt of—" 

"Nonsense, my boy! My natural liking for you, as 
well as my Christian duty toward my fellow man, dictates 
that I should lend a hand wherever possible. That's my 
only religion, Arthur, to do whatever good I can in life — 
that and the Golden Rule. So you see I'm only following 
my natural bent in helping you. Don't thank me, please ! " 

"But I do, I do!" 

" You mustn't. Tell me the whole thing ; that'll be more 
profitable. Let's have the story in as few words as pos- 
sible. It's getting late. Why, bless my soul, it's nearly 
midnight! What's the trouble, Arthur? Out with it!" 

He smiled at the boy with as good a simulation of cordi- 
ality as he could muster, though inwardly he was cursing 
this young bungler who at an hour so very inopportune had 
dropped into the midst of all his plans. This interruption 
would surely delay and might perhaps wreck his arrange- 
ments. Something must be done, and at once. 

14 



GREEK GIFTS 15 

His mind alternated between rejoicing at the possible uses 
to which he could turn this incident and the certain loss 
of valuable time it involved. A returning sense of the im- 
perativeness of immediate action forced upon him the reali- 
zation that unless he could speedily rid himself of Mans- 
field, the few remaining hours of night would be forever 
lost With the morning, should it find his plan unaccom- 
plished, ruin would dawn. 

A thrill of nervous anxiety, of sudden fear, shot through 
him. Now that the diversion of his ideas by Mansfield's 
abrupt entrance into the scene had somewhat abated, a burn- 
ing eagerness began once more to possess him. He must 
be at work ! Every moment now was golden. But he held 
his grip upon his nerves. Biting his lip, steadying his 
voice, forcing a calm that belied his racing pulses, he once 
more exclaimed: 

" Let's have it all, my boy ! All, and immediately. The 
sooner you get this thing off your heart and conscience the 
sooner we can begin repairing the damage. Now sit down 
in that big chair and — " 

"No, no; not there! I couldn't sit down, Mr. Slayton; 
indeed I couldn't. I — I guess I'm too nervous to keep 
still. You see, it all started by — by — '* 

"Well?" 

Mansfield floundered, flushed, paled, and remained 
speechless. The cashier shoved a box of cigarettes across 
the table. 

" Maybe a little nicotine might help? " he ventured. 

" No, no. I Ve cut that all out, along with — everything. 
No more. I'm done ! " 

"So?" 

And Slayton reached for the box. He lighted one of 
the cigarettes, inhaled deeply and gusted thin vapor toward 
the cdling. 

" That's good," he commented. " Glad to hear it. Do 



i6 THE ALIBI 

I infer that — er — a tendency to dissipation has got you 
into this — hmml — this difficulty?" 

" No, not that. Oh, I haven't been an angel, or any- 
thing of that sort 1 But since I — well, got to going with 
Enid — with Miss Chamberlain, you know — " 

" Ah, yes ; of course I You have been paying some at- 
tention to Miss Chamberlain. I forgot about that. Nat- 
urally that factor makes your position all the more diffi^ 
cult. It hasn't any direct bearing on the case, I hope? I 
mean, in order to keep up appearances and all that, you 
haven't — " 

** No, no ; nothing of that sort ! " 

And Arthur seemed to repel the idea by swiftly thrust- 
ing out his hand. 

" Much as I — love — Enid, Miss Chamberlain I'd give 
her up a thousand times over, before I'd be a — thief to win 
her ! " 

" Very well said ; very well indeed ! It would be an odd 
situation — wouldn't it? — for a bank-clerk to woo the 
daughter of the bank-president with money stolen from the 
bank itself. That certainly would complicate matters. 

"And by the way, Arthur," Slayton added with an at- 
tempt at merely casual interest, " before we go any further, 
just what are your prospects with the young lady? Pardon 
my asking. I do so only because it may — well, may pos- 
sibly have rather an important bearing on the case." 

" My prospects ? " queried Mansfield. 

He passed trembling fingers through his hair. 

"Well, I don't just know, for certain. Pretty good, I 
guess. I've been entertained at their house five or six 
times. And then I've been their guest at the Edgemere 
Country Club, and once I went yachting with them, last sum- 
mer, as far as Mount Desert. They've been just bully to 
me I I — I guess they kind of look on me as — as — ^" 

" As a future member of the family? Is that it? " 



GREEK GIFTS 17 

''I guess so. Enid does anyhow; I know that much. 
That's what makes all this so terrible. If it ever gets out 
just think of what'll happen! It won't be only a case of 
about killing my father and mother, but Enid will have to 
suffer. I don't care what happens to me! It's — " 

" Of course ; of course I But enough of this, Arthur. 
Let's get down to specific facts. You've misappropriated 
funds; is that it?" 

" Stolen, you mean ! Stolen ! Yes 1 " 

The boy's head came up sharply. He faced the older 
man, eye to eye. Slayton's glance was first to fall. 

" Stolen 1 " Mansfield repeated. " I'm a thief I " 

His look belied him. Not shame now, but a kind of 
strange, wild pride burned in his face. At sound of the 
words, Slayton changed color. Then, stammering and 
abashed despite his every effort, he demanded: 

"What amount? How much did you — steal? And 
how did you take it? And when? " 

"How much? Twelve hundred and fifty dollars. I 
stole it last week on Thursday afternoon and Friday morn- 
ing. I can show you just how I got away with it, to-mor- 
row. I'll give you the falsified accounts. It was only a 
matter of a few ciphers and a decimal point or two. You 
know, it's not very hard to do that sort of thing, sometimes. 
Such things can be put through for a while, and got away 
with." 

Of course, of course," assented the cashier nervously. 

Well, well, Arthur! The facts are out at last Twelve 
hundred and fifty, eh? Hmml Not a vital matter after 
all. Not irreparable by a long shot." 

"You'll give me a lift?" 

"Gladly! On one condition." 

"What's that?" 

" On condition that you tell me what you took the money 
for." 



« 



i8 THE ALIBI 

The boy turned a shade paler than before. He thrust 
out a denying hand. 

"No, no I Not that, Mr. Slayton. Not that! I can't 
tell you that I" 

" Why not, pray? " And Slayton's eyes narrowed, as he 
blew another lungful of smoke across the room. 

" Why can't you? It can't be any more disgraceful than 
the fact of the theft itself I Come, come, Arthur I Make 
a clean breast of itb Playing the races, eh? Nothing to 
the ponies, my boy ; nothing to them I Or was it the little 
ivory ball on the spinning wheel, or the pasteboards, or the 
bubbles in the tall glass, or the — " 

" None of those, none of those I Not one I No, nor the 
other thing you were just going to ask. Nothing of all 
that, so help me ! " 

Arthur's fist struck the table a smashing blow. 

" Nothing at all like that I It's a clean reason anyhow. 
Absolutely clean. Yet I can't tell you. I simply can't 1 " 

" But you must, Arthur. You must Otherwise — " 

" I can't I And you'll help me just the same ; won't you ? 
My God 1 You've gol to help me I If you don't, if you re- 
fuse to lend me enough to cover the deficit before the ex- 
aminers call to-morrow — " 

" The examiners ? " ejaculated Slayton, startled out of 
his mask-like pretense of calm. " To-morrow, I — I for- 
got about thatl Let me think, Arthur. Let me think! " 

He felt a sudden, deadly pang of terror. How could he 
have overlooked that vital fact? To-morrow was Novem- 
ber 15. And the Federal examiners would be there! 

The thought of this new contingency lashed him like a 
nagaika. Money 1 He must have money to straighten out 
his accounts! If any theft were to be discovered it must 
not be laid to him! That note must not go to protest; no 
question must be raised as to his solvency. 

Money 1 He must get his hands on it at once I He must 



GREEK GIFTS 19 

have cash — hard white and yellow cash from the canvas 
bags, or yellow-backs from the sealed packets. More than a 
hundred thousand he must have by mornmg from the far* 
thest recesses of the vaults ! 

That meant only one thing: he must get to work at 
once. A fine sweat began prickling on his brow. Unseeing, 
he stared at Mansfield. Past him and through him the 
cashier stared, seeming to see striped clothing, rows of cells, 
high-barred windows; to hear the clank and jangle of huge 
keys ; to scent the foul, carbolic-acid stench of the Pen. 

To-morrow I To-morrow morning he must have more 
than a hundred thousand dollars 1 

The urgency of the situation dawned on him with fresh, 
full, terrible insistence. No longer could he cherish at the 
back of his brain any hope that perhaps the job could still 
be postponed another day or two. Even were Jarboe's note 
not due, this other contingency would force him to act at 
once. 

And so, now suddenly struck by the instant necessity of 
the crisis, he stood there staring, making no answer to the 
agonized young man before him. 

Mansfield's cry of despair hardly reached his conscious- 
ness — the cry of: 

So, then — you won't let me have it ? " 
What?" asked the cashier, confused. 

" I can't tell you why I stole it — I can't, can't! " the boy 
cried in anguish. " It wasn't for myself anyhow. It was 
for — for — No, no ! I can't tell 1 " 

Dazed for a moment and unable to collect himself. Slay- 
ton shook his head in vague negation. 

A glint of lamplight on steel caught his eye. 

"Here! Drop thatl Drop it, you young fool!" he 
shouted, leaping. 

Stand backl" cried Mansfield in a choking voice. 

Lode out now I If you won't give it to me I've got noth- 









20 THE ALIBI 

ing to live for I 111 lose Enid and disgrace her and every- 
body ; m go to Sing Sing, and — " 

Swiftly the cashier struck, with surprising strength. The 
pistol spun through the air, clattered across the table and 
thumped to the floor. 

" You young idiot 1 " 

And Slayton caught it up. 

" None o' that, now ; you understand ? None o' that here I 
No cheap melodrama in my house ! " 

He flung the weapon into the desk-drawer and slammed 
it shut. Mansfield stood there staring at him, white to the 
lips. 

" I tell you/' he quavered, " if I don't get that twelve 
hundred I'll surely do it, one way or another. There's 
plenty of deep water between here and New York, and — " 

** Drop your nonsense I " 

Slayton's voice had gone rasping and harsh. 

"Suppose you did do it, you lunatic? What possible 
good would that do? It's stupid, to begin with, and the 
worst possible kind of welshing. No thoroughbred quits 
that way. And talk about wrecking Enid's life! What 
could possibly shatter her worse than that? 

** Would it accomplish anything? Would it put back the 
twelve hundred? Would it clear your name, or — " 

" Do I get it or don't I ? " demanded Arthur, livid. 

" You don't deserve to ; but — " 

" I'm going to get it? You'll give it to me? " 

" Damn you, yes I " 

"Thank Godl" 

" Better thank me, you fool 1 Come to my desk at nine 
in the morning, and take the envelope I hand you. You're 
saved temporarily. In a day or two I'll arrange — " 

"Oh, how can I ever — ?" 

" Come now ; come, come 1 Cut that I This is no philan- 
thropy. I'm simply doing my duty, my Christian duty ; that's 



GREEK GIFTS 



21 



all. ni lend you the money. You can pay me in monthly 
installments. As I was going to $ay, we'll arrange suitable 
terms." 

" 1*11 be your — your slave as long as — ** 

" Don't talk rot ! I'm tired now. Here it is almost mid- 
night A nice quart d'heure you've given me, I must say. 
Get out I I've seen enough of you. Go on — go home I 
And mind now, no nonsense I And be at my desk at nine, 
sharp. You've got just time to catch a train for the city. 

" Not a word I Not a word I Get out — and devil take 
you ! " 



CHAPTER IV 

THE DAWNING OF AN EVIL FLAN 

t 

MOTIONLESS, Slayton stood listening a moment 
to make quite sure Mansfield was on his way. The 
outer door thudded shut, reechoing through the si- 
lent house. Steps crossed the porch and made off along the 
walk with diminishing sound. These faded into silence. 
Mansfield was gone. 

*'Goodl" ejaculated the cashier, nodding with content- 
ment. " He^s out of the way, at all events. Nearly spoiled 
everything, damn him ! But as it is, things are turning my 
way again." 

The prospect was bright with encouragement. This acci- 
dent of fate might after all prove a blessing in disguise. 
Slayton was not slow to understand that the boy might after 
all prove wonderfully useful to him. 

"If my brains haven't turned to ivory and my heart to 
water," thought the cashier, " I can use him on a pinch, and 
use him hard! Twelve hundred, eh? And all ready to 
blow his foolish head off for that trifle? And wouldn't 
tell why he stole it ? " 

Slayton rubbed his sleek hands together with satisfac- 
tion He began to catch glimpses of some deep motive in 
the boy's actions — something far deeper than wine, women, 
song; than cards, roulette, the ponies. What that some- 
thing was he could not even g^ess as yet; but he felt cer- 
tain it existed. 

And once he could discover that something, he believed, 

22 



THE DAWNING OF AN EVIL PLAN 23 

he hoped — yes, already he definitely calculated that he 
could — mold young Mansfield to his purposes as a potter 
molds his clay. 

The clock, striking midnight, started him from his re- 
flections. The time had come for action if anything were 
to be done to avert impending disaster. He rubbed his sleek 
hands together, then faced suddenly about and glanced at 
the clock. 

'* Say, this won't do I " he exclaimed. " Fve got to be 
getting busy. Time enough, but none to spare. Fifteen 
minutes before train-time. It'll do." 

He produced a bunch of keys from his trousers' pocket, 
unlocked a lower drawer in his desk and took out a neatly- 
wrapped parcel. The very care with which this had been 
done up typified the man. Methodical, cold, precise and 
neat in all his ways, suave and outwardly impeccable, he 
stood for all that may be summed in the one word : " Re- 
spectability." 

Slayton opened the parcel, took out a gray wig,' a false 
beard and mustache and a pair of gold-rimmed glasses. 
These properties, saved from the amateur theatricals of the 
previous winter, now bade fair to assume a role of great 
import. 

In five minutes the metamorphosis was complete. With 
intense satisfaction Slayton surveyed himself in the glass. 
He had become wholly unrecognizable. Nothing now re- 
mained of the personality that had been. In place of the 
well-groomed, suave and immaculate bank-cashier of forty- 
one, an elderly man of broken-down and seedy appearance 
stood there on the rug before the fireplace. 

" Grand 1 " ejaculated Slayton. " Why, I might pass for 
my own father ! " 

He felt a sudden sense of security. Nobody could ever 
be able to assert that he had been out of his own house that 
night. He knew that if ever he were suspected of the 



24 THE ALIBI 

crime he had now definitely planned to commit, Mansfield's 
testimony would give him an alibi. 

Mansfield could be made to swear that he had left Slay- 
ton at home, close to midnight. He could be made to swear 
that $layton had not taken the 12:17 train to St. George's 
and the ferry; and this, Slayton knew, was the last train 
till morning. 

Exultant, the cashier continued his preparations. He 
was just beginning to realize what a stupendous piece of 
bull-luck it had been all around that had driven Mansfield 
to see him. If the thing had all been planned in advance 
it could not have worked out more beautifully. 

Slayton threw the string of the parcel into the fire, then 
carefully put back into the desk-drawer the paper that 
had enwrapped his disguise. One might have thought so 
slight a matter as a sheet of brown paper could possess no 
possible importance ; but Sla)rton believed otherwise. Now 
that his mind had been fully made up to the deed he meant 
to do, he intended no step to fail, no link of the chain to 
show the slightest flaw. 

His intelligence, logical and incisive to almost a super- 
human degree, weighed every chance and analyzed every 
contingency. One possibility in ten thousand existed, per- 
haps, that the disguise might be called into question. By 
wrapping up the things again in the original paper that 
still bore the name of the dealer from whom he had bought 
them he could strengthen his case. He could establish a 
claim that the disguise had never been out of the parcel since 
the time of the theatricals. Ninety-nine persons out of a 
hundred in opening a package will throw away the paper. 
Slayton was the hundredth. He saw possibilities even in a 
sheet of manila. 

Having locked up the paper for further use, he put on 
his boots and discarded his smoking-jacket. Then he went 
out into the hall, and from the closet under the stairs took a 



ii 



THE DAWNING OF AN EVIL PLAN 25 

disreputable old coat and overcoat, also a battered felt hat 

— clothing he sometimes used for working round the gar- 
den, in rainy weather. He slid an electric flash-light into 
one of the pockets, and made sure he had a pair of gloves. 

No finger-print evidence for me ! " he muttered. 
That little detail is worth looking out for. Well, now " 

— surveying himself in the mirror of the hat-rack — " I 
think rU do 1" 

As an elderly, rather shabby but still respectable citizen 
he stood there smiling at himself. Then he returned to the 
library, took the memorandum of the safe-combination that 
was written on the little slip of paper, and pocketed his keys 
and a bottle of machine-oil which he found in the drawer of 
his wife's sewing-machine. 

Lastly he put on a pair of old, well-worn rubbers, and 
buttoned the shabby overcoat tightly up about his throat. 
One last look in the mirror convinced him that all was per- 
fect He was about to extinguish the electric lights when 
an idea struck him. "Eh?" said he. "Had I better? 
Mightn't it lead to — to more than I intend? " 

Hesitant, he debated the question in his mind. Sud- 
denly he shook his head. 

" It will lead to nothing ! " he decided. " I know per- 
fectly well what I'm about. My self-control is absolute. 
No harm can come of having it. And as a bit of protec- 
tion in a pinch, it may be invaluable to bluff with. Yes, I'll 
take it." 

Once more he returned to the desk, opened the drawer 
into which he had thrown Mansfield's pistol, and took out 
the blunt-nosed, brutal weapon. Critically he weighed it 
in his hand, a moment. 

" Big enough caliber, I must say," he commented. 
" Forty-something, at the very least. If that infernal idiot 
had made good on his threat, he'd have blown the top of his 
head clean off, in a shocking manner. He'd possibly have 



26 THE ALIBI 

involved me in a charge of murder that might have played 
the devil with me. He'd certainly have delayed me so that 
I couldn't have put this business through, to-night. In any 
event, it would have been fatal to me." 

Cool as Slayton was, he shuddered at the thought of what 
might have happened there in the library; and a sense of 
fear assailed him as the new idea flashed to his mind that 
under those circumstances he might easily have been con- 
victed of murder. 

In any event, Mansfield's suicide would have forever 
destroyed all hopes of his clearing himself from the finan- 
cial web that now enmeshed him. It would have fatally 
delayed him and have banished every hope. Slayton real- 
ized how closely he had verged ruin, and cursed the boy 
under his breath. 

An ugly set of the jaw betrayed Slayton's inner character. 

" He'll pay for this later, damn him 1 " the cashier mut- 
tered. "He'll pay. But now — enough of this. Time's 
up. I must be going." 

Swiftly he extinguished all lights, left the house, made 
certain the door was locked, and then struck into a brisk 
walk toward the station, a quarter-mile distant. Already 
oflF to southward he could hear the piping whistle of the 
locomotive. Everything had been figured to a nicety. He 
would arrive exactly on time. There would be no delay, 
no lurking in the roadside bushes to wait for the train ; no 
enervating suspense on the station platform, should he ven- 
ture thefe. Slayton smiled again. 

" It's all fitting together like a Chinese puzzle, bit by bit," 
said h^. " A few hours more and this burden, the intoler- 
able horror of this menace, will be lifted from my shoulders 
forever." 

Exultant, he strode along, breathing deeply the frosty air 
of late November. A magnificent night that was, to be 
abroad — a night that should have turned his thoughts to 



THE DAWNING OF AN EVIL PLAN Tj 

better things ; to wonder at the beauty and majesty of na- 
ture ; to thoughts of uprightness and honor ; a night the like 
of which only a few each year brood over earth and sky. r 

No snow as yet had powdered the world with fairy jewels. 
The light from a gibbous moon, now and then obscured by 
vagrant clouds through which it seemed swiftly to stoop, 
limned with surprising clarity ea^h house and wall and 
tree. The tang of approaching winter vivified the air. 
Never had Sla3rton sensed a greater fulness of life, of 
power. He pulsed with a plenitude of energy, with pur- 
pose, with keen and conscienceless strength. 

To him the night seemed one fitting to witness his act of 
liberation. He felt that freedom now lay close ahead. It 
seemed inevitable. His will, his purpose would make it so. 

Scornfully he thought that only weaklings bow before 
threats of disaster. Real men, strong men with capable 
hands and brains, he reflected, know how to meet each peril 
and weather every storm. 

Inflated with a sense of his own power, the cashier strode 
on and on. Of a sudden the train slid into view, a long 
checker of bright spots running swiftly through a patch of 
oak forest. Far across the night were flung raucous echoes 
from the screaming locomotive as it signaled the next stop. 
Slayton quickened his pace a trifle. 

As the train ground to a stop, with brake-shoes spouting 
cascades of fireworks, he mounted the steps of the plat- 
form. A figure in a balmacaan and an olive-green felt hat 
was moving directly toward Slayton, to enter the smoker. 

Firm as a rock the cashier stood there. Mansfield, he 
clearly saw, was suffering from an extreme attack of nerves. 
The boy's sidelong glance was furtive. Ordinarily his blue 
eyes held steady, clear and unafraid. Now they shuttled 
uncertainly. The clamp of his teeth on the pipe he had for- 
gotten to light supplemented the shiver that racked his body. 
Plainly Arthur was about " all in." 



ircr 2. iti niuf or rvo IfanmESiFs ISook resced f^S oo the 
C35nser$ isiot cur, g ^"'^^^^ de tftfJiiiiimg. fanrnr^ ot 




30 B^I <xt 

rhaf his (5sc^zxse vas aosouxOBiy s 
<fctgt rgti> araf he wdxLi 3cc be 
"'^ Bo-tDnf ' .-CT arbcsrd ! '^ ^?famtinf a. bafccnan* swwgtog 

*" Pot ect alSx'*' thcug&t se 3S fK estETcd the tram. '^ He 
and I are doe ociT passeogers id get oa here. HeU swear 
if need be Aat I vas ac borne vi&exi he startoi tor the dty, 
and that ndbsyir got on a> t!ie trasi here cxce^ a. aondescript 
oJd aaa. Perfect!'' 

Man:^eid west incD dae tSis-St auaAei. 9a:itOQ fol- 
lowed, and sat cScwn two seats behnid fain to watdi his 
arrinryj The boT*s xBenrocssess did not decrease. It 
seexz^d rather to grow more and more acute. Halfadozen 
times be lighted his pipe before ther reached the immiripal 
feny, and half a doeen trrrars k went C0L He shifted in 
his seat, pidred cp a discarded psper. tried m min to read, 
direw it down, took oS his hat and rephced it. 

The cashier, almost aktce widi Xfans&etd in dK car — for 
ocihr one cdier passenger sat there, d i omsi q g at the ejiti eme 
rear — btrried his chin deep in the nptarocd collar of his 
did Qcatj polled down his formless hat and feigned sleep. 
But under the hat-brim his slit-ckxsed eyes kept gkamii^ 
watch. And hidden in the big failse beard hb Iqis were 
smiling ominooshr. 

Mansfield ventured a glance behind him, saw odIt a gold- 
tpectacled man asle^, and fch relieved. Presenthr, as the 
train swayed racketing through Stajdetoo, the cashier saw 
him take a p>batograph from his pockety gaze at it with rapt 
intentness and passionate fervor, then suddenly press it to 
bis lips, 

** The young fool ! " thought Slayton. 




THE DAWNING OF AN EVIL PLAN 



29 



All that he could see in Mansfield's love was that it bound 
shackles on the young chap's wrists. An impediment such 
folly was — a giving of vast hostage into Fortune's keeping. 

On and on clashed the almost empty train, over switches, 
through sleeping suburban towns, past red-eyed lights that 
glowered in swift trajectories, away, away! Finally a long 
skreel of the whistle blared its announcement that the termi- 
nal was near, at the ferry. 

Mansfield slid the photograph of Enid Chamberlain back 
into his pocket and buttoned his coat tight. Again he 
glanced around. Slayton saw that the boy's eyes were 
gleaming — wet with tears. 

A sneer rose to the cashier's lips. 

" Idiot ! " he muttered. 

And of a sudden, deeper and more ominous thoughts be- 
gan to cluster — birds of evil omen — in his brain. 

" Perhaps it might be done," he whispered, fixing his hard 
eyes on the boy. " Perhaps it might be done, after all. 
Who knows?" 



CHAPTER V 

THE ROBBERY 

NOISELESSLY the flat key, which Slayton had care- 
fully oiled so that it should not squeak, turned in 
the lock. Silently the grillwork door of steel, like- 
wise treated to a few drops of oil, swung inward. And in 
silence Slayton entered the bank enclosure, listened a tense 
moment, holding his breath, then soundlessly closed the 
door behind him. 

Temptation whispered: 

" Leave it open I In case of trouble you'll need to have 
it open for a quick get-away I " 

But with superior intelligence he resisted. It was es- 
sential, he knew, that he should leave everything in normal 
condition as he passed. An open grill, if discovered, would 
precipitate disaster. 

He listened eagerly, there in the gloom of the bank office, 
lighted only by the glaring incandescent that hung before the 
door of the huge safe, fifty-eight feet to his left. Slayton 
knew it was just fifty-eight feet There was no major 
measurement of the building he had not familiarized him- 
self with. Not that any very definite idea of robbing the 
vaults had ever been borne in on him till that night; but 
rather on general principles. His methodical mind, coldly 
impersonal, had a passion for information of every sort. 
No telling when it might come useful I 

So there he stood and listened. Not a sound. Already 
he had penetrated close to his goal without a sign or signal 

30 



THE ROBBERY 31 

of discovery. A few minutes more without interruption 
and success — golden success — would fall into his grasping 
hand. 

Just a few minutes more — a few terrible, nerve-racking 
minutes — each an eternity of possibilities! How precious 
every second was! Yet Slayton did not hurry. Calmly, 
deliberately, with perfect self-control and careful thought, 
he was executing each move precisely as he had planned it. 

In this supreme moment, as in all the moments of his life, 
system and calculation ruled him. Through all his nervous 
tension he realized the prime necessity of coolness. One 
false step now would mean — What would it not mean? 
Ever3rthing in life now summed itself in just this: Ten 
minutes more of undetected work. 

" Ten minutes I " thought the cashier, harkening with ter- 
rible intentness. "Just give me ten minutes without that 
old fool of a Mackenzie butting in, and I'm safe ! " 

So far ever3rthing had gone with perfect success. Slay- 
ton had watched Mansfield descend into the subway entrance 
at South Ferry ; then, sure that the young fellow was safely 
on his homeward way, had briskly walked up Broadway to 
Cedar Street, down which he had turned. 

A few minutes later, quite positive that no patrolman 
had observed him and that old man Mackenzie was down 
in the safe-deposit vaults, he had let himself in at the side 
door of the bank. 

This door he had noiselessly closed after him. Quickly 
he had removed his disguise and had thrust the glasses, wig, 
beard and mustache into his overcoat-pocket. In his own 
likeness now he stood there within the enclosure. Nobody 
in the world had seen him, as Walter Slayton, in the city. 
His plan was working to perfection. 

Once the job should be done, he knew, two or three min- 
utes would suffice to put the disguise back again. He would 
return to Staten Island as he had come, an old man. And 



X 



32 THE ALIBI 

meantime, if Mackenzie should just happen to discover him, 
what could be simpler than to make him believe — be- 
lieve — 

An uncomfortable doubt assailed the cashier. Right well 
he knew how hard-headed, shrewd and suspicious the old 
Scot was, with all the canny wisdom of his nationality. 
Here, had Slayton been willing to face the fact, lay the weak 
link in his chain — the possibility of Mackenzie's inoppor- 
tune arrival on the scene. 

Still the cashier lulled his anxiety to sleep with the be- 
lief that on a pinch he could convince the old man all 
was well. And really, after all, what was there to fear? 
Not one chance in a thousand existed that Mackenzie would 
discover him. 

The old man, he well knew, was down-stairs in the safe- 
deposit vaults, where he had a comfortable chair with a 
well-padded cushion to ease his aching bones. From long 
years of studying Mackenzie's habits, Slayton possessed ab- 
solutely unimpeachable data on them. Mackenzie acted 
with the fixed precision of an automaton. 

With the oncoming of age "he had fallen, like many old 
men, into precise, mechanical ways. Now Slayton could 
have taken an oath as to the watchman's location. The fact 
that the hour was 1.37 vouched for his presence in the vault. 
From 1. 15 to 1.30 a. m. it was his invariable custom to make 
a round of the offices, the big barred enclosure guarding the 
safe-doors, the rear rooms — those of the directors, of- 
ficers and one or two others — and then finally to descend 
the steel stairs to the subterranean chambers. 

Here, his duty done and all the recording-clocks duly 
punched, he was wont to sit for an hour or more, reading 
certain mathematical treatises whereof he always carried 
one or two, well-worn, in his pocket. Mathematics formed 
the only love of this solitary old man, now as since his 
youth. Once he had dreamed of being a professor, with 



THE ROBBERY 33 

letters after his name, but fate had been unkind and had 
amused herself by making him a night-watchman in a bank 
— an exemplary night-watchman, be it said; a paragon of 
a night-watchman. 

But still he clung to formulae, sines and cosines, equa- 
tions and quaternions. He read Binomial Theorem as other 
men read novels; found ecstasy in Conic Sections, thrills 
of joy in Lx)garithms, pure nepenthe from all his woes in 
the complicated mazes of the Higher Calculus. A harm- 
less old man, withal, though sternly devoted to his duty, 
with incorruptible Presbyterian zeal. Sturdy, too; rude of 
fist — on a pinch — and keen of eye, with an accurate trig- 
ger-finger. No man, this rugged Caledonian eccentric, to 
play trickery upon. 

Slayton, however, still felt perfectly secure. He knew he 
possessed the old fellow's great good-will. The gift of 
many a second-hand book had long since won his heart. 
And, furthermore, Slayton felt positive that at this precise 
moment Mackenzie was absorbed below-stairs in some dizzy 
flight of triangulation or in mental gymnastics with x and 
y and z. 

" He won't be up for half an hour at the inside," mut- 
tered the cashier, advancing with extreme and noiseless 
caution through the passageway between grills, toward the 
door of bars guarding the safe. And half an hour will 
far more than suffice. Fifteen minutes, even ten, would 
bring success. "All I need is ten minutes — just that, no 
more I " 

Slayton paused again to listen, then again crept forward, 
crouching, furtive, ominous. Making a slight detour to 
the right along a side passageway past the bookkeeper's cage, 
he pulled down the shades in front of two windows through 
which the safe-door could be seen from the street in the 
glare of the sixty-four candle-power incandescent dangling 
before it. 



34 THE ALIBI 

A certain risk, by no means small, was involved in this 
act, but it had to be done. Only the patrolman on the beat 
would ever notice that the shades were down, if he should 
chance to pass; and Slayton knew he was not due yet for 
more than thirty minutes. With the shades up, however, 
any chance pedestrian might see him at work and raise the 
alarm. By all means those shades must be lowered. 

This, too, was part of his elaborate plan. Though Slay- 
ton's definite decision to carry out this coup had been formed 
only a couple of hours previously, the major outlines of it 
had long been taking shape in his brain. All he had had 
to do was fill in those outlines. And this his keen intelli- 
gence had readily accomplished, even in the limited time at 
his disposal. 

He smiled again shrewdly. Another step had been safely 
accomplished. All that the job needed was system, a level 
head, and steady nerves. Once more he advanced to the at- 
tack of the safe, his rubber-shod feet perfectly soundless on 
the tiling. Through the bars of the enclosure that guarded 
the vault of concrete and steel, with its massive laminated 
door that carried an intricate machinery of wheels, levers, 
spindles and pinions, he could now clearly see the goal of 
his salvation. 

He chose a key from the bunch he carried. A moment, 
and he had unlocked and swung wide the door of massy 
bars. This he passed through and closed again, but left im- 
latched, so that at an instant's notice the way of retreat 
would be open. 

And now, tense with excitement in spite of all that he 
could do to hold his aplomb, with narrowed eyes and gloved 
hands that trembled a little, with uncertain breath and ham- 
mering pulses, he stood cfose before the safe itself, directly 
under the cone of light from the incandescent 

Not all his coolness and skill of planning, not all his 
steeling of the nerves, nor yet the dispassionate coldness of 



THE ROBBERY 35 

his blood, could keep the cashier from sensing a violent emo- 
tion at this, the moment of his first " break." 

His previous crimes had all been subtle thefts, the jug- 
gling of figures in massive ledgers, the falsification of totals 
and balances. There had existed no soul-racking crises^ 
no climaxes of emotion. Now, however, all was diflFerent. 
Here he stood before the safe, a burglar, brother to the yegg, 
difiFering from him only in the adventitious fact that he 
possessed the combinaticm, in place of " soup," to open the 
huge doors. 

Sla3rton began to shiver annoyingly. Under his breath he 
cursed himself. At this stage of the game was he going to 
stand there and get stage-struck? An attack of nerves just 
now would surely be the climax of misfortune. With a 
strong eflFort he tried to pull together. He was finding out 
that for an inexperienced man — no matter how conscience- 
less — to plan a robbery is one thing; to execute it an- 
other. 

Despite the fact that he had already lived this scene in 
imagination, now the reality of it gripped and shook him. 
Impatiently he tried to thrust aside his introspection. Forc- 
ing himself to action, he reached up and snapped off the in- 
candescent. The drenching glare of its illumination, flood- 
ing down upon him, would make him a shining mark, a 
target of targets, should the old man by any chance happen 
upstairs from the vaults. 

Then in complete darkness he drew from his pocket the 
little electric flash-lamp. His pocketbook yielded up the slip 
of paper bearing the precious carbon-copied figures — the 
cipher to the combination recently changed; a cipher 
whereof only two records existed, one in the hands of Presi- 
dent Chamberlain, the other now held in Slayton's gloved 
fingers under the light-pencil of the electric ray, as he stood 
there keenly attentive. 

A week later Slayton could have accomplished nothing. 



36 THE ALIBI 

The bank was on the point of installing a time-lock, before 
which nothing save nitroglycerine or thermite will avail. 
But now only a combination faced the cashier. And, armed 
with the little piece of paper, it possessed no more difficulty 
than ABC. He read : 

R 5 to 40; L 4 to 50; R 3 to 25 ; L 2 to 91 ; R to stop, 

Deftly he turned the knob, sensing with satisfaction the 
play of the tumblers. Through his mind passed a grim 
amusement at thought of the way in which he would circum- 
vent all evidence against him. His gloved digits were leav- 
ing no telltale marks. And in the morning the slip of paper 
with the combination would be found locked in his desk. 
He could prove it had never left the bank. He could prove 
he had never quitted his home that night. No possible 
chance existed of attaching the crime to him. 

Nodding with greater confidence, his nerves now steady- 
ing, he worked. And now again he glanced at the paper. 

With a slight, an almost imperceptible click, the tumblers 
fell into position. Slayton's eyes gleamed as he turned the 
brush of light from the dial to the wheel of polished metal at 
his right hand. 

He rotated the wheel, drawing back all bolts. Then he 
seized the handle and pulled. At the familiar action — the 
very same thing he had already done some thousands of 
times — the door swung easily and gently outward. And 
yet how very different now the feeling of it was I 

Slayton snicked off the current that operated the little 
flash, and for a moment stood in complete darkness, seeing 
nothing save some vague gray patches far across the bank- 
windows giving on the street. He seemed to glimpse bars 
across these windows. Bars I A vague frisson of prescient 
foreboding insinuated itself into his consciousness, but with 
impatience he shook it off. Still a glimpse of barred win- 
dows was disquieting. 



THE ROBBERY 37 

*' Damn my nerves I " he growled. " Going back on me, 
are they?" 

Another moment he remained there, listening with ter- 
rible intentness, breathing through his mouth for greater 
silence. Was there anything to hint at trouble? 

Nothing. 

A heavy and oppressive stillness brooded over the dark- 
ened bank at this eerie morning hour — an hour of the ebb- 
tide and dregs of htmian life. Through the hushed black 
of the rooms the click of the electric timepiece jumping for- 
ward a minute sounded with startling loudness. Slayton's 
muscles tensed. Even that slight disturbance, that little 
impingement of energy on the muted inertia of the place, 
seemed of ill omen. 

Outside, a dull, vague murmur bespoke the city's lethargy. 
A distant tram-gong seemed an impertinence in face of the 
vast sleep, the entire paralysis of life that marks the Wall 
Street section after midnight. From the East River one 
or two drowsy, booming whistles drifted up. The hoot of 
a motor siren over on Broadway mocked the sleep-nimibed 
city. 

G)nvinced that he still remained quite undiscovered and 
that no danger menaced, Slayton now once more switched 
on the beam of his search-light. Quickly he threw back the 
bolts of the inner door of the safe. Then, hesitating not 
a second longer, he stepped boldly into the strong-room of 
steel, the goal of all his thought and toil and peril. 

Money, hard cash, specie in huge masses exerts a peculiar, 
almost a maddening, effect on the average man. When 
confronted with the chance to dig both arms to the elbows 
in real currency he is apt to lose his better judgment, to nm 
amuck, to do hasty, ill-considered, incriminating things. If 
he steals he will often steal in stupid and unscientific ways 
that not only limit the amount he can get away with, but 
also lay open the way to his subsequent detection. 



38 THE ALIBI 

Not so Slayton. He stood far off from the beaten paths 
of averages. 

For long years and years he had daily and hourly handled 
money as the commonest of all commodities. He knew 
money as he knew nothing else. He tmderstood money, 
thought money, lived money. 

To count, handle, appraise, estimate, check, weigh, pay 
out, and take in money had for many years constituted his 
life. Now, confronted by all those bales, stacks, rolls and 
bundles of the familiar stuff, he found his emotions subsid- 
ing. 

Well, was he not at hcnne there in that vault in face of all 
this currency? The cash soothed and calmed him. At 
sight and touch of it his sang-froid returned ; his pulses ran 
normally; the fever left his blood. Again he smiled, but 
this time confidently, masterfully, the smile of a connoisseur 
who sets his hand to something that he dominates and knows 
and loves. 

Methodically now, without a single false move and with- 
out the loss of a second's time, he began his work. To a 
" T " he knew exactly the place of each denomination, each 
medium, each kind of specie, bills and other assets in the 
vault. Leaving aside the compartments devoted to com- 
mercial paper and securities, and likewise shunning the 
canvas sacks of metal, he thrust his hand into a certain 
pigeon-hole where reposed two hundred and fifty one-thou- 
sand-dollar bills in neatly sealed packages of fifty bills 
each. 

Well did he know that the niunber of each of those bills 
was recorded in a certain ledger. Even as he abstracted 
three of the packages and slid them into his inner pocket, 
he was preparing for the next step in his procedure. He 
could have taken more, but that might have increased the 
subequent peril; and his idea was not to make a haul, but 
merely to clear himself from his complications, with a gen- 



THE ROBBERY 39 

erous margin to turn around on. No ; he would take only 
one hundred and fifty thousand dollars. That would do 
very well indeed. And the next step would eflfectively block 
all tracing of the bills. 

To this end he took down the ledger containing the entries 
of the banknote numbers, turned to the pages thumb-indexed 
" 1000," and ripped them clean out. 

These pages he folded and stuffed into his inside coat- 
pocket, thereafter replacing the ledger in its proper position 
on the shelf. 

He reflected a moment, then nodded with assurance. An 
important step toward a perfect alibi had now been taken. 
The theft would assuredly be fastened on scxnebody in the 
employ of the bank. No outsider would ever have thought 
to tear out those pages. Slayton neither knew nor cared 
about where the blame would fall; but at the back of his 
mind that nascent idea kept glimmering out again — the 
idea that if it should become known that one of the junior 
clerks was in financial trouble, suspicion could not help point- 
ing its finger that way. 

" Well, anyhow, it's no affair of mine," said he, prepar- 
ing to retreat, now that his work was done. " Let them fig- 
ure it out for themselves." 

For a moment he scrutinized the interior of the vault by 
the rays of his search-light. He paid particular attention 
to the floor. Nothing had been dropped, he assured him- 
self — nothing that could in any possible way incriminate 
him. He had left no finger-prints. Should any tracks of 
his rubbers be detected that would amount to nothing. The 
rubbers were of a style and pattern sold by the million; 
moreover, they were worn quite smooth. 

Cautiously he returned to the door of the vault, flashing 
his little antenna of light ahead of him. A few minutes 
more of non-interference would liberate him, would put 
him back on the sidewalk again, disguised and safe. Only a 



40 



THE ALIBI 



few minutes more I Already he seemed to breathe the outer 
air again — the frosty, life-inspiring air of liberty I 

When — hark 1 What was that ? 

Recoiling, Slayton gave ear. Back into the shelter of the 
vault he shrank, peering out tensely into the black. 

A step? 

Could that be a step out there somewhere in the corridor 
leading from the safety-deposit vaults below-stairs to the 
bank office ? 

All Slayton's blood seemed to coagulate round his heart 
and clot there and stifle him. 

A step ! 

A step indeed — the old man's step I Mackenzie's I 



CHAPTER VI 

FATE MOCKS AND TEMPTS 

LOUDER now it sounded, louder and nearer stUl. It 
paused a moment as with nascent suspicion; then 
came on and on again, shuffling a trifle, yet alert. 

Livid, Slayton switched oflF the light of his electric beam 
and crouched there breathless in the dark. Terrible curses 
rose to his lips, blasting imprecations, furious maledictions 
against the old meddler who now for the first time in weeks, 
perhaps, had just taken it into his head to break his schedule, 
to mount the circular stairs, to make an extra turn about the 
bank. 

On came the step, and on. 

In a few seconds, Sla3rton knew, Mackenzie would reach 
the office door, would see that the incandescent before the 
safe had been extinguished, would start investigating. 

The end — the end of ever3rthing in life for Slayton — 
now all at once on the ultimate verge of success — had 
hurled itself to smite him down. Failure mocked at him, 
ruin, destruction. 

And a sudden tigerish hate leaped into the cashier's heart 
as he crouched there in the blackness of the big safe, watch- 
ing. He felt no personal hate against the simple-minded, 
honest, faithful old Scot, but hate of him as a tool, a means, 
an instrument of wreckage in his path. 

For the first time in his life Slayton felt a thrill of the lust 
for blood. He comprehended, as with a lightning flash of 
apperception, how man can raise his hand to strike his 
brother down. But he would not kill, whatever might be- 
fall. Of that he felt entirely positive. Subconsciously he 

4x 



43 ■ THE ALIBI 

knew he would not kill. Let come what might, he would 
not stain his hands with murder. 

Yet a strange, persistent shudder quivered through his 
body. He felt a fever that singularly seemed a chill. Only 
by clamping his jaw could he stop the castaneting of his 
teeth. And in the dark his lips parted in a snarl of hate 
and malice. 

Now all at once a little waverii^ will-o'-the-wisp of light 
became visible in the bank office, a spot of white illumina- 
tion that wandered vagrantly over desks and grills, along 
the walls, across the windows. 

" Mackenzie's flash-light ! " thought Slayton. 

His heart sank. In a second now the old man himself 
would appear. Everything would be lost. Ruin would 
smite him down. 

Slayton heard a grumbling voice. Obviously old Mac- 
kenzie's suspicions had been aroused by somethii^. The 
watchman was talking to himself as he advanced. Then, 
just as a vaguely dark form moved in the gloom through 
the far doorway, Slayton understood. 

The watchman's light had found and was resting on one 
of the lowered window-shades. Like an inquiring eye, it 
held its gaze a moment there. And again Slayton heard the 
burrit^ accents of the old Scotchman in self-communion. 

Mackenzie moved forward. The light jumped sharply. 
Slayton knew the old man had noticed that the incandescent 
before the safe had been extinguished. A sound of breath, 
quickly inspired, told Mackenzie's surprise. Then the dark 
form pushed forward with determination. 

Swiftly the cashier thought. Was there any means of 
escape? Could he still retreat around the vault, gain the 
corridor, reach a door, a window? 

Even as his fevered mind leaped for the hope of safety, 
he knew it was futile. Every window was barred with 
steel. The only door he could hope to reach was in plain 



FATE MOCKS AND TEMPTS 43 

sight of Mackenzie's sharp eye. And in that stillness any 
slightest move might now betray his presence. Nothing re- 
mained to do save crouch down and wait and hope — hope 
against every possibility that in some way or other he might 
yet escape detection. 

But now already Mackenzie was advancing. 

The watchman had at last become convinced something 
was amiss. The incandescent might have burned out; but 
the window-shades could not have lowered themselves. 
Mackenzie knew trouble was afoot. And with the bull- 
dog courage of his race, with an admirable and self-immo- 
lating sense of duty, the Scotchman hesitated not, but ad- 
vanced to ferret out this mystery. 

Even through his welter of hate and venom Slayton felt 
a stab of admiration for the simple directness of the old 
man's courage. He rang in no alarm, summoned no help, 
waited not to reconnoiter or to estimate the peril ; but as if 
going his usual rounds pressed forward down the grilled 
passageway toward the safe. 

" Somethin' wrang, the noo I " Slayton heard him solilo- 
quizing. " Somethin' surely wrang. I dinna ken whut, 
but I soon shall, or me name's no Sanderson Mackenzie I " 

As he came on and on, grumbling to himself, he sprinkled 
the floor with light from his flash, like a priest throwing 
holy water. Suddenly the flash stopped short, resting on 
some object that lay upon the floor. 

*' Whut — whut the de'il is this? " Slayton heard the Scot 
exclaim. 

Tensed in panic-stricken observation as he cringed 
there peering round the edge of the safe-door, he saw the 
vague form bend as though to pick up something. Then the 
little silvery beam of light played over an object held in 
Mackenzie's hand. Hand and object stood out with star- 
tling vividness by contrast with the dense curtains of the sur- 
rounding gloom. 



44 THE ALIBI 

" Eh ? Whut ? " the old man ejaculated. 

Slayton, peering, felt a sudden weakness turning his bones 
to water. 

The thing that old man Mackenzie was staring at in mute 
amaze was — Slay ton's wig! 

With some strange cynicism of mockery, fate had ordered 
that this cursed object should drop from the cashier's pocket 
and that it should now have fallen into the hands of the 
enemy. Probably at the moment when Slayton had drawn 
the search-light from his pocket he had also pulled out the 
wig and let it fall. 

Now there it was, an absolutely damning bit of evidence 
against him. 

Without it some slight chance of escape by clever ruse 
and dodging might still have existed. With it no hope what- 
ever could possibly be conceived. Sla3rton's whole salvation 
depended on the alibi that Mansfield could be forced to give 
him. But with tliat wig in evidence the entire defensive 
case would drop apart like a rotten fabric. 

Slayton felt suddenly very sick. He could imagine the 
impending scene, the investigation, the disgrace, the anguish 
of his wife, the horrible penalties already surely hanging 
over him. He seemed as if meshed in the hideous compli- 
cations of a nightmare ; and yet he knew that this thing was 
only too terribly, too inescapably real. 

Even at this minute if he could get out of the bank and 
away unseen, that infernal wig of his would danm him. 
Not only would it start a train of thought in Mansfield's 
active brain — a train of thought which would be fatal to 
him — but it would inevitably produce investigations that 
could only have one ending. The thing could not fail to be 
identified as his property. A score of persons might recog- 
nize the peculiar wig as that which he had so successfully 
used in those accursed amateur theatricals. So long as 
that damnable object were not recovered the future could 



FATE MOCKS AND TEMPTS 45 

mean absolutely nothing for Slayton except prison stripes, 
barred windows, utter ruin, endless and infamous years of 
Hell. 

Another and a different passion all at once was bom in 
the cashier's chilled heart — the primal instinct, deepest- 
rooted of any in the universe — self-preservation. 

Now all at once, a staggering choice had been flung up at 
Slayton — the choice of certain punishment or of some pos- 
sibility in risking far, far more that he might win complete 
freedom. 

And like cloud-wrack before the breath of tempest all the 
cashier's antipathy against mtirder vanished. He knew in a 
flash that Mackenzie must die. 

Must die if he, Walter Slayton, were to live I 

Once more his hand sought his pocket It closed there on 
the corrugated butt of Mansfield's automatic. Eagerly his 
fingers clutched this harbinger of quick salvation. 

He realized that the shot would be easy. The distance 
was not over twenty-five feet at the outside. He could fire 
through the big steel bars with perfect ease. He could not 
miss. 

Steadily now with heart of ice and nerves of iron, stead- 
ily, silently, rigid with purpose, he withdrew the weapon. 
He poised it, ready, waiting, eager ; and as his flexed fore- 
finger tightened on the trigger he smiled again. This time 
the smile was of joy. 

Never had Slayton felt so great a thrill of happiness. The 
touch of that gun to his hand was a benediction. Down 
came the grim snout of the pistol — down, down, along the 
edge of the safe-door. Steady it held, and true, perfectly 
aimed against that massive rest. The barrel, as it found its 
mark, froze to accurate position there. 

Slayton's heart, which had been thrashing rather wildly, 
now once more was beating with normal pulsation. An ex- 
traordinary calm, poised and highly efficient, had succeeded 



46 THE ALIBI 

the cashier's earlier emotion. With businesslike precision 
he drew a careful bead on the dark blot of the old man's 
form, vaguely outlined by the reflection of the search-light'S 
little beam. 

His gloved finger tightened, tightened still more. 

All at once Mackenzie made up his mind to act. He 
turned, ready to go. 

The crash of the report, though loud, seemed less so than 
Slayton had expected. Quick echoes snapped back at him. 
Then all grew still again. 

Silent, eager, perfectly self-possessed, he waited, giving 
ear for any sound of danger. He heard none. Old man 
Mackenzie's form had vanished. No groan arose, no cry, 
no murmur. All was silent as the grave. 

Ice-cold, calm, watchful, the cashier stood there, the pistol 
still in hand. Was Mackenzie merely shamming? Had the 
shot really taken effect? Or was some ruse in preparation? 
Slayton could not tell. But with wily astuteness he waited. 

If no policeman had happened to be in the vicinity he 
knew a very good chance existed that the single shot might 
have passed unnoticed. There was more than a good 
chance. The detonation could not have carried far, 
hemmed in, as it had been, by those thick walls of masonry. 

A minute he remained there — two minutes — three ; and 
each was an eternity. 

Nothing. 

No sound. Not a breath. Absolute silence still reigned, 
interrupted only by the nervous click! of the electric 
chronometer. 

Then Slayton advanced, en vedette. Through the door 
of the great steel cage he passed, and entered the grilled run- 
way where Mackenzie had stood. 

Suddenly he stopped. 

" Got him ! " he ejaculated. 

The electric light, falling from Mackenzie's hand, had 



FATE MOCKS AND TEMPTS 47 

rolled to one side and stopped there. Now its single eye 
of radiance was fixed on a terrible something, motionless 
and grinu A something that, half-glimpsed, set the hair 
bristling along Slayton's nape, stopped his breath and racked 
him again with sudden chills. 

A something of his making ; a something that silently cried 
out against him with a terrible, still voice, never again to 
be put away or forgotten, never again to be shut out from 
him, any more. 

A something which he trembled to approach; which he 
dared not see ; yet which, with resistless force, grappled him 
toward itself. 

A something — 

Death! 

Right in the light-circle of the lamp the dead face lay, 
waxen, wrinkled, appealing in its supreme helplessness, with 
glazing eyes uprolled, with open mouth distorted hideously, 
with gray hair drabbled in a viscous, black, varnish-like 
liquid — a liquid that even as Slayton watched it, shudder- 
ing, quivered with the falling of another drop upon its 
spreading surface on the tiles. 

"Got him, first shot," muttered the cashier. "No cry, 
no struggle, nothing. Just dropped him, that's all. Devil- 
ish neat shot, I think." 

He spoke dully, as with no very clear realization of the 
event His actions seemed mechanical. His staring eyes, 
rimmed with white, blinked strangely as he stood there peer- 
ing into the dark. 

Dazed, he drew nearer, and shoved the pistol back into 
his pocket. He felt a certain pride through it all that his 
shot had been so extremely effective. Yet horror overbore 
all other sensations. He moved mechanically. 

" Mackenzie ! Oh, Mackenzie ! " he loudly whispered. 

The light went out Now all things lay folded in curtains 
of velvet gloom. This was far worse than anything the 



48 THE ALIBI 

rays could show. He produced his own light and cast its 
rays here and there, seeking the wig. 

There it lay, still clutched in the old man's fingers, i Slay- 
ton snatched it up and crammed it into his pocket. 

He was safe now, at any rate — safe from the charge 
of robbery. Yes, but — the other, the vastly more terrify- 
ing charge? 

All at once his teeth began to chatter violently. Full 
realization had just been borne into him that he had killed a 
human being — that he was a murderer. 

He had wanted only to steal, not to take human life. He 
had not wanted to kill. He, Walter Slayton, was not that 
kind of m^. And yet he had killed. And there before him 
lay the body of Mackenzie! 

"God!" he whispered. "I've killed him. Killed a 
man!" 

Very sick, he recoiled. 

" Oh, I didn't mean to do it. When I came here, I — I 
only meant to steal. I didn't mean to take himian life — to 
kUl! 

" I'm a murderer ! If they catch me, if they catch me 

He shrank away. Before him seemed to rise a vision of 
the death-house, the narrow door, the pitiless cement cham- 
ber under its glaring reflectors; and, in the midst of all, a 
terrible thing, black, ominous, waiting — the Chair. 

Cowering, striking the horrid apparition away from be- 
fore his eyes, he retreated. Back he recoiled, anywhere out 
of that hideous corridor of death ; back from that place of 
terrors, where already the heavy, salty odor of fresh blood 
poisoned the very air. Haggard, he peered about him. 
What now? 

With a kind of desperation he realized that something 
must be done at once to lay the guilt of this, as of the other 
crime, upon other shoulders than his own. At once, or it 



FATE MOCKS AND TEMPTS 49 

would be eternally too late. He must get back to Oakwood 
Heights, change his clothes, conceal the money and be ready 
— fresh, shaven, alert — to return to New York on his usual 
train. 

Not one iota of variation must be observed in his con- 
duct. He must prepare himself for an ordeal of acting 
such as would tax the abilities of a consummate artist. And 
time was growing now so terribly short ! 

With a violent effort the miserable man pulled his nerves 
together. He went over to the water-cooler, drank two 
brimming glasses of ice-water and felt a trifle relieved. 
Then he stood there, pondering. 

Obviously he would gain nothing by locking up the saf^ 
again. Now that the old man was murdered there could be 
no delay in the discovery of the theft. Nor would there be 
any advantage in putting back the money. That would only 
bring about his bankruptcy and help fix suspicion on him. 
No ; as he had begun, so he must go through to the end — 
to the very end, whatever that might be. 

He shuddered, and for a moment leaned against the steel 
bars of the vault-cage to steady himself. Then suddenly he 
recoiled. 

Bars ! Steel bars ! Couldn't he get away from the dam- 
nable things? 

Once more he took thought. His only way, he decided, 
would be to prove a perfect alibi. He had left no tracks, not 
even a finger-print or foot-print. Let them suspect all they 
pleased, they could prove .nothing. He must remove every 
possibility of proof. He must fasten the crime on somebody 
else. Some other man must take this medicine ; not he ! 

" Somebody else ! " said the cashier. " Somebody else 
must suffer for this. But who?" 

Pondering, he once more began to resume his disguise, for 
already the peril of staying too long in that fatal place was 
growing acute. Not only was the light increasing, outside, 



50 



THE ALIBI 



but the awakening sounds of the city's life warned him he 
must be gone. Adjusting the false beard and mustache, he 
began his preparations for flight. 

" I can make it, all right enough," said he. " There's still 
time. Time enough, yet, before nine o'clock ! " 

As he reached into his pocket for the wig, which he had 
stuffed in there, his hand fell in contact with metal. It re- 
coiled as from the touch of a viper. 

The automatic! 

*' Ugh I " Slayton grunted wordlessly. The feel of that 
cold, murderous thing, which only five minutes before had 
flicked out a human life, sent shudders of repulsion rippling 
through his unnerved flesh. 

But almost at once a different thought possessed him. 
Again his hand sought the weapon. 

" Well 1 " said he. " It's his, isn't it? It's Mansfield's ? " 

Startled by the wide-flung possibilities all at once opened 
out before him, he stared as if petrified. 

"It is hisl" he exulted. "His! And so — and so — 
why notf" 

A croaking laugh of triumph rose to his pallid lips. 

" Yes, by God ! " he gulped. " It can be done ! It can — 
it shall!" 



CHAPTER VII 



THE "plant" 



SLAYTON'S mind now definitely made up to foist the 
guilt of this black murder upon a perfectly innocent 
man, he proceeded with his usual well-calculated cool- 
ness to carry the infernal plan into execution. With intelli- 
gence of a high order and with the deliberation he now felt 
was essential to success, he faced the problem, adjusted him- 
self to the new conditions that had so unexpectedly arisen, 
and prepared to meet them. 

In the cashier's personality lay nothing of the hysterical. 
His nerves could not be stampeded into any rash or ill-con- 
sidered action. Everything he did was done with reason, 
care and purpose. Now that he had become a murderer, 
thief and criminal, he had suddenly developed into the most 
dangerous of all kinds — the cold, intellectual, scientific type. 

Facing the body of the aged watchman, not yet stiffened 
in death but still warm and limp, he took thought how best 
to fasten the accusation of the murder on young Mansfield. 
He must, he understood, build up a rather elaborate structure 
of circtmistance. By no word of his, by no accusing finger 
must the charge be brought. The unanswerable testimony 
of the facts and nothing else must make the charge of 
" Guilty 1" 

Slayton did not go to work at once. He understood that 
a moment's calm reflection might now win the whole battle. 
So, he reflected. He even brought a chair, sat down, rested 
his elbow on his knee and his chin on his hand, and deeply 
pondered the case. Not until the outlines of the process 

51 



52 THE ALIBI 

should have been worked out in his incisive mind would he 
so much as move a finger to execute his plan. 

One single false step now might not only ruin his scheme, 
but also retort the charge of murder on his own head. At 
all hazards he must proceed with caution and intelligence. 
So he sat there scheming as Dante pictures Satan rumi- 
nating darkly in the deeps of the lowest Pit. 

Finally, light in hand, he got up and approached old Mac- 
kenzie's body. The scent of blood was highly distasteful to 
him — for Sla3rton was a man of peculiar refinements and 
easily offended — but he did not draw back. He turned the 
old man over to see where the bullet had struck. At sight 
of the wound behind the right ear he critically pursed his 
thin lips. Then he let the limp head fall back again. With 
the greatest care he avoided staining his gloves with blood. 

His electric light still burning, he proceeded, in a business- 
like manner, to carry out his plan. First he went noiselessly 
to Mansfield's desk, looked it over and tried the drawers. 
All were unlocked. 

Slayton carefully examined the drawers. In one drawer 
he found a pair of gloves, and took them out. In another 
he came upon a box of paper-clips, with a few pins and trifles 
mixed in. Among these he saw a button. At sight of it 
his eyes brightened with satisfaction. 

He recognized this button. It matched the boy's usual 
business suit. Evidently it was one of the little sleeve-but- 
tons. A few threads still adhered in the holes. Sla3rton 
took this button in his gloved fingers and studied it closely, 
turning it under the rays of the lamp, which cast ghostly re- 
flections up over his thin, pale face, mask-like and sinister. 

The threads, he thought, had been cut off by a knife or 
by scissors. He figured that the button had worked loose, 
and that Mansfield, careful and prudent, had cut it off and 
put it into that box against such time as he could have it 
sewn on by a tailor — perhaps even by Enid Chamberlain; 



THE " PLANT " 53 

who could tell? Slayton's satisfaction was large. The im- 
portance of this button, if rightly used, might be tremendous. 

With the gloves and the button he knew he had enough in 
his hands to convict the boy. He must avoid too great pro- 
fusion of proofs. He might add one or two more bits in- 
deed, but he must be careful not to overplay the game. Just 
a few pieces of unimpeachable evidence, he felt, would prove 
far more effective than a dozen, which, by their very abun- 
dance, might give rise to suspicions of a frame-up. 

Slayton listened a moment for any possible sounds of 
peril. He heard none. Beyond the usual dull night-mur- 
mur of the city, all was still. And yet he knew the patrol- 
man would be along now in a few minutes. He had no time 
to waste. It was imperative that he get to work immedi- 
ately. 

He pulled the threads out of the button and tucked even 
this tiny bit of material into his waistcoat pocket. Broken 
threads formed part of his scheme, but cut threads did not. 
His mind grasped even this detail; and so he kept the 
threads. 

With the gloves and the button he returned to the body 
— having closed the drawers of Mansfield's desk — and 
dropped the button near the corpse. The tiny bit of bone 
rolled round a couple of times, finally coming to rest near 
the grillwork. So far, so good. 

Next he took one of the gloves — the right — and dabbled 
three of the fingers in the old man's clotting blood. He 
then loosened Mackenzie's coat and waistcoat and ripped 
open the old watchman's shirt. He took off his own right 
glove, put on Mansfield's, and thrust the blood-stained fingers 
in against the dead breast over the heart. Then he withdrew 
his hand again, making sure the glove was leaving its mark 
there. 

This done, he replaced the boy's glove with his own, took 
Mansfield's gloves and pistol and prepared to descend to the 



54 THE ALIBI 

basement of the bank-building. He had two doors to unlock 
before he could reach it, but he knew where Mackenzie al- 
ways kept the keys hanging and so had no difficulty. Thus 
he soon found himself confronting the steam-heating plant, 
with which he now had business. 

The fire in the furnace, banked by the janitor before that 
worthy man had departed for his home on Canal Street, now 
glowered dully. Slayton opened the furnace door and tossed 
in the pages torn from the ledger. A considerable quantity 
of ashes fell out. With these he buried one of the boy's 
gloves — the one with the blood on it — leaving only a bit 
of it exposed. He then threw the other glove in upon the 
red coals and watched it shrivel and blacken to a crisp. 

After this he tore up the paper with the cipher of the com- 
bination and burned it, all save three small fragments. 
These, he made sure, had some of the carbon-copied type- 
writing on them. He dropped them casually on the base- 
ment floor. 

Then he threw the pistol with which he had shot Mac- 
kenzie — the pistol that belonged to Mansfield — over 
behind some ash-barrels. He pondered the whole train of 
evidence, smiled, nodded and returned upstairs. 

'* It will do, I guess," he judged. " There's no flaw in it 
an)rwhere that I can see. It will do." 

He now made ready to depart for his^ home at Oakwood 
Heights. All at once a thought struck him. One weak link 
in the chain might be fatal. And he had just realized that 
there existed one such link among those he had so carefully 
forged. 

Where had Mansfield got the cipher with which to open 
the safe? 

In this frame-up the possession of that cipher was going 
to possess great weight — or rather proof that the paper had 
been in Mansfield's hands. Slayton's claim, of course, would 
be that he had kept it locked in his upper right-hand desk- 



THE " PLANT " 55 

drawer, which it had never left. If Mansfield had got hold 
of it the boy must have forced the lock. Very well, then ; 
obviously that drawer must have its lock forced. 

But Slayton had no tools with which to force it, and time 
was growing terribly short. Only a few minutes for action 
still remained. If he should miss the 2:55 boat to Staten 
Island he could not regain his home, and he would have to 
appear at the bank in new clothes just purchased. That 
circtunstance alone would throw suspicion on him. It was 
imperative that he reach home! Not a minute was to be 
lost. 

That meant that he could not return to the boiler-room to 
look for tools. He must use whatever he could find. 

Slayton swept his light over Mansfield's desk again. A 
steel letter-opener was lying there; a little tool with "A. 
M" rudely scratched on it. He caught it up, returned to 
his desk, unlocked the upper drawer, and inserted the point 
of the steel tool in the lock. There he broke it off short. 
He then dropped the broken opener into the pocket of a coat 
that hung on a hook near the assistant bookkeeper's desk — 
a coat belonging to that bookkeeper, a man named Holmes. 

The last step had now been taken, the last bit of evidence 
rendered conclusive. With a rather extraordinary finesse 
Sla}rton had even made it appear that Mansfield had tried to 
lay the blame on Holmes. 

He chuckled to himself, rubbing his smooth hands to- 
gether. Rather neat he thought the arrangements. Rather 
phenomenally neat, indeed I 

An idea suddenly occurred to him. Unless the usual " O. 
K." were nmg in on the watchman's alarm-system, the police 
might become suspicious and send over an officer from the 
nearest precinct station-house to investigate. Slayton ac- 
cordingly rang in this alarm, punching the clock as Mac- 
kenzie would have done. He nodded and smiled with satis- 
faction at his extraordinary keenness. 



S6 THE ALIBI 

He now resumed his disguise, made sure he had left no 
incriminating traces, and finally let himself noiselessly out 
of the bank after having once more turned on the incandes- 
cent in front of the safe and put up the shades again. 
Under the shelter of the doorway he listened keenly, peer- 
ing about for any possible danger. He saw none, and so 
issued forth boldly on to the sidewalk. 

Thus with one hundred and fifty thousand dollars in his 
inside pocket and shielded by a profound conviction that his 
own personal safety was secure, he proceeded confidently 
homeward. He made no effort to avoid anybody. The few 
pedestrians afoot hardly vouchsafed a glance at him. He 
passed a couple of policemen, one on Cedar Street and one 
near Bowling Green, but neither one molested him. 

And the glimmer of the harbor, with here and there a dim- 
eyed moving blur of red or green, gave him a strange sense 
of liberty, of vastness, of escape. Freedom now from debt 
and hounding and threats ; freedom from the long years of 
subterfuge and deception ; freedom from Jarboe's prying in- 
vestigations — all had been won by one bold coup and by 
one single shot. He could have run and shouted for very 
joy ! Now he could pay off Jarboe's note of eighty-four 
thousand dollars and all his other twenty-odd thousand of 
obligations — all — all — and more ! 

No sense of guilt or fear rose up in him now, as he 
reached the ferry and made his way aboard. Leaning over 
the rail, watching the black water that asked its age-old ques- 
tions, never-answered, he felt no drawings of remorse. The 
dead eyes of the old man gazed not at him, searching out his 
soul. No; calm, cool, resourceful, he succeeded in shut- 
ting away all such disquieting memories and introspections. 
Other things more vital still had to be thought out; and 
above all surged and soared the glory of that new and splen- 
did exultation, Freedom ! 

Slayton settled himself in the men's cabin, lighted a cigar 



THE " PLANT " 57 

and plunged into thought He deeply pondered the inevi- 
table events now impending. For a time he weighed the 
possibility of incriminating Mansfield still more by forcing 
the boy in some way to leave New York at once. When the 
young chap should appear at the bank in the morning, all 
unconscious of the charge now certain to be raised against 
him, some slight possibility might exist that he could suc- 
ceed in freeing himself. He might conceivably prove an 
alibi. The finger of accusation might turn toward Slayton 
himself. If the cashier could only concoct some scheme 
which would force Mansfield to run away, it would set the 
keystone of proof in the arch of assumption. 

But no; Slayton decided this would be quite impossible. 
Moreover, Mansfield was of fighting stock. He would not 
run, in the first place ; and in the second he was no quitter. 
He would fight. Even if he could be made to leave New 
York, once he should be accused he would hurry back to face 
the charge and see the thing through. And that, in itself, 
might react in his favor. No ; decidedly no ; there could be 
no advantage in trying to stampede him. 

The boy must be let alone to walk into the trap that had 
so cleverly been baited for him. Only by absolutely over- 
whelming him with masses of damning evidence could he be 
beaten down. Well, Slayton would overwhelm him, that 
was all. 

The cashier realized, with a thrill of anticipation, how per- 
fectly all the lines had been laid. He felt content to await 
the outcome of the morning, confident that not one chance in 
a thousand existed that Mansfield ever could get clear. 

Thus he returned home to the dark and deserted house in 
Oakwood Heights, unseen, unnoticed and secure. The hour 
now was just a little after 3.30 a. m. First he took off and 
hung up the old clothes in which the murder had been done, 
making certain no spot or touch of blood had sullied them. 
He then wrapped up his disguise in its original paper and 



S8 THE ALIBI 

locked it into its accustomed drawer in his desk. He burned 
a ntunber of incriminating papers relative to his indebtedness 
— now on the morrow to be wiped out. 

Finally he sat down at his desk and wrote a letter to his 
wife, taking good care to date it " Wednesday, Midnight," 
and to say that young Mansfield had been down to see him. 
Slayton mentioned nothing of the boy's errand, but said he 
had just gone back to town on the last train. As a bit of 
subsidiary evidence this letter — calm, normal, familiar, be- 
traying no slightest hint or sign of nervous perturbation — 
might have considerable value. 

Slayton went out and posted this in the box on the comer. 
Then he returned and went to bed as if nothing whatever 
had happened. He took good care, however, to set his alarm- 
clock so that he should run no risk of oversleeping in the 
morning. Should anything prevent his putting in an ap- 
pearance at the bank at his accustomed hour, serious re- 
sults might ensue. 

Resolutely suppressing all thoughts of the murder now 
blackening his soul, he slept. His self-control surpassed be- 
lief. With that fresh crime but a f sw hours old, he slum- 
bered quietly, soundly, restf uUy. 

But Mansfield did not sleep. Burning as with fever, hag- 
gard and pale, haunted with terror, he passed a night of 
fear, remorse and agony in his boarding-house room. 

Would Slayton really help him? Mansfield asked himself 
a hundred times. Would he keep the shameful secret? Or 
would he crush him, after all? 

Would ruin be Mansfield's portion — ruin and the loss of 
name, of future, of good repute, of Enid, of all that made 
life worth living? The bitterness of Hell he plumbed that 
night, and drank the dregs of pain. 

Thus he, innocent of the greater wrong that soon was to 
be laid on him, agonized in the long hours of that fatal night. 



THE " PLANT 



>f 



59 



Thus Slayton, his hands reeking with blood-guihiness, slept 
cahnly on. 

And as the one kept vigil and the other slept, old man 
Mackenzie lay silent, rigid, terrible, on the bank floor, his 
dead eyes glazed, his limbs now stiffened in the rigor mortis, 
his blood now clotted in a black pool beneath his shattered 
head. 



CHAPTER VIII 

SLAYTON FACES THE CITY 

THE cashier was awakened, a bit dazed and dull, by 
the clangor of the alarm. The first shock of remem- 
brance startled him rather severely; but, strong of 
nerve and will, he presently mastered his emotion and in a 
businesslike manner began preparing for the inevitable or- 
deal. Like an actor making up for a difficult role, he set 
about preparing himself for the part he must act in the drama 
to be staged at the bank. His make-up in this case meant 
one of the most exacting of all dramatic tasks — the assump- 
tion of an absolutely natural appearance and demeanor under 
hard stress. 

A cold bath, followed by a vigorous rubdown, a shave, and 
clean linen throughout, made him fit and keen. At his 
accustomed hour, absolutely normal, so far as the outer man 
was concerned, he set out briskly for town. Sixty-five of 
the one-thousand-dollar bills he left in his bedroom, securely 
hidden behind a picture, against any possibility of the house 
being searched. He knew that, tucked in between the thin 
board backing of the picture and the print itself, they would 
be absolutely safe. In his pocket he carried eighty-five 
thousand dollars, with which to meet the note he owed Jar- 
boe. Whatever happened, tliat matter must be settled at 
once. 

On his way to the Oakwood Heights station he met 
Ashley, of the International Life. He walked along with 
the insurance man, talking on indifferent matters. With 
satisfaction he noted that Ashley observed nothing at all un- 
usual about his speech or manner. He could tell positively 

60 



SLAYTON FACES THE CITY 6i 

that he was attracting no attention. Inwardly he congratu- 
lated himself on his success so far. 

The trip to the city passed without event. He break- 
fasted at the restaurant he usually patronized when his wife 
was away, and simulated interest in the paper he forced him- 
self to read — the paper that as yet contained no news of the 
murder. 

As he was leaving the place, cigar in mouth, the first real 
blow went home on him. Only with difficulty could he hold 
his composure. The nasal cry of that newsboy on the 
comer : " Bank murder ! Bank mur-der ! " shot a bolt of 
apprehension through his soul. He felt suddenly as if every- 
body were looking at him, pointing at him, mocking him, and 
mouthing one terrible word : 

"Murderer!" 

The thing was, of course, an illusion, an absurdity ; nobody 
in the world knew anything of the truth. He, Walter Slay- 
ton, was perfectly and absolutely safe. And yet — and 
yet — 

A fine perspiration began to prickle out all over him. His 
eyes grew dim for a moment ; he turned a sickly, leaden color. 
He realized now, for the first time, just what he was facing. 
The murder was known, of course; he knew it would be 
known long before he could reach the bank. The papers 
had it already, in their special editions. Already reporters, 
police, detectives would be swarming. Already there would 
be a morbid, pushing crowd around the place where he — 
Heaven help him ! — must thrust his way in, acting that part 
of his, always acting that part, for very life's dear sake. 

And at realization of all this, now definitely borne in on 
him, a kind of cosmic weakness seemed to take possession 
of him, a loosening of all his bones and joints and muscles, a 
disintegration of the soul, a terrible, sick fear — stage-fright, 
in a word ; only on how vast, tragic and fatal a scale ! 

As a drowning man fights to grip some support, so the 



62 THE ALIBI 

cashier fought now to recover his nerve and strength. Life 
and death it meant ; no question about that. Once the very 
slightest act of his should awake suspicion, two and two 
would be put together and he would be watched. Detectives, 
police, experts would fasten on him as weasels fasten on a 
rat; and all the complex, potent machinery of science, of 
chemistry, of blood-analysis — things terribly dreaded by 
the la3rman, who overestimates their possibilities — would 
be used to drag him down to death. 

In a second's glimpse Slayton saw how crude, after all, his 
" plant " had been. Or so it now seemed to him. If the 
great, steady eye of investigation should turn on him, he 
knew he would be lost. 

Could he, guilty, compete in the appearances of innocence 
with the boy ? He knew he could not. He understood that 
once any charge were made against him, he must break and 
wither under it. 

A terrible fear and hate of Mansfield was bom in him. 
He feared and hated those clear blue eyes, that healthy, 
normal face, those manly brave tones and inflections of the 
voice. Everything about the boy, he felt, would cry out: 
" Innocent 1 " whatever might befall. And should the boy 
and he be weighed in the balances, one against the other, only 
too well he knew the outcome. 

But then this thing must never come to pass. No sus- 
picion must arise I The accusation against Mansfield must 
come with such sudden and crushing force as to sweep all 
before it like a bayonet-charge, leaving no force behind it to 
attack him, Slayton. 

Yet could all this be done? The cashier, shaking now, 
seemed lost and sunk in boundless abysses of despair. That 
one blow, that shock of the cry : " Bank murder ! All about 
the Powhatan Bank murder I " had in a fiash shot him to 
pieces with its terrible connotations of what he now must 
face. 



SLAYTON FACES THE CITY 63 

Slayton stood there as if transfixed, unable to go ahead, 
powerless to move. One or two men glanced at him curi- 
ously. His lips twitched in a sickly smile. He understood 
perfectly well that if he remained there* much longer he 
would become conspicuous and awaken comment. Yet he 
could not move. . And still the newsboy's raw yell of " Bank 
murder I " pierced his ears. Slayton could have smitten the 
urchin down and trampled him. This boy here was flinging 
Slayton's crime to the whole wide world — and must he, the 
miu-derer, hear the horrid accusation ? 

A film passed before his eyes. He put his hand out 
blindly, grasped a railing and steadied himself. Then by a 
supreme effort of the will he walked on up Broadway. And 
ever that cry : " Murder !, Murder ! " rang in his soul — 
and other cries reechoed it ; the whole city seemed howling 
'' Murder!'' 2Lt him. ''Murder!" 

Cursing, he turned aside and entered an office building to 
get out of the glare of daylight. The light, he thought, 
was what distressed him most of all. Everybody could see 
him so plainly in the light. An'^obsession got hold of him 
that there was a spot of blood on his right hand, inside his 
glove. He knew that there was no blood there, but still he 
could not convince himself of that fact. 

And he dared not bare his hand to look at it. For even in 
that half-lighted hallway he felt that somebody would notice 
and interpret the act. Torture wnmg him between fear of 
looking at his hand and burning eagerness to look. He 
swore again, and stood there trembling and panic-stricken. 

The hallman, he now felt positive, was observing him with 
curiosity and undue interest. He turned to go again. Just 
as he reached the revolving doors a newsboy thrust a paper 
in his face. 

*' Paper, boss? All about th' bank moider ! " 

Slayton caught a glimpse of huge black type with other 
type below in vivid red — the paper, then, was printed in 



64 THE ALIBI 

blood? The curse he launched against himself for his folly 
in entertaining such a vagary made the newsboy stare. 

" Gee ! Some nut, hey ? " muttered the boy, as Slayton 
emerged once more on the street — the merciless, pitiless, 
all-seeing street, Broadway, under the light of a pale No- 
vember morning. 

The cashier realized that he had not yet mastered his 
fears. But he must act ; he must move ; he must keep going. 
Only in motion now could he find safety and a chance to pull 
together. 

What had become of all the assurance of only a few hours 
previously? Whereas the night before in the darkness he 
had felt absolute confidence in his astute plans and clever 
ruses, now all at once — under daylight and amid all these 
hurrying thousands of his fellow-men — he found himself 
stripped bare of courage. 

For a second it seemed to him as if all the dikes of self- 
control were breaking before that flood of unreasoning ter- 
ror; as if he must run amuck, flinging his arms wildly, 
screaming: 

'' Look, all you people; I — I am the murderer! '* 

But by an effort that wrenched his soul he lashed his 
routed forces into discipline again. His panic, having 
reached its climax, now began to subside. After all, no- 
body had noticed him to any serious degree. Nobody knew 
him; nobody had understood. 

He turned aside from the morning throng, all so busy and 
so eager; he put his foot upon an iron rail in front of a 
steamship company's office; and retied his shoelace. This 
little act, this small respite from facing the eyes of human 
beings, gave his stampeded resolutions time once more to 
form in battle line. 

And as he stood up again, again looked men in the face 
and drew a deep breath, he knew that he had conquered. 



SLAYTON FACES THE CITY 65 

Once more he had whipped his wavering soul back to the 
firing-line. He still was master in his own house. 

Still weak, though with returning strength and self-confi- 
dence, he resumed his course up Broadway. Jarboe's ofiice 
lay close at hand, in Trinity Place. Thither he now di- 
rected his steps. The note must be met at once ; moreover, 
to carry eighty-five thousand dollars in the stolen one-thou- 
sand dollar bills back to the bank itself would be the acme 
of rashness. At all hazards he must rid himself of those 
bills immediately. 

Jarboe had just got in when Slayton arrived. The rat- 
eyed little usurer, disfigured by a large wen on the forehead, 
showed him into an inner office, a veritable spider-web of 
iniquity and extortion, whence but few files ever escaped 
with whole wings. Rubbing his hands together and leering 
with disgusting insinuation, the old Shylock awaited his 
money. 

Slayton made no words with him, but counted out the 
cash, took the note, and without even a " Good morning ! " 
started to leave. 

"Awful tragedy up at your bank, sir. Awful, indeed! " 
the old man mtunbled. " But it's an ill wind blows nobody 
good.'* 

Slayton's face paled to a dull gray. 

*' What do you mean, you infamous scoundrel?" he de- 
manded. 

" Mean, sir? Oh, nothing; nothing at all, sir. Why do 
you ask?" 

" Do you mean to insinuate — " 

" I insinuate nothing, sir. It's nothing to me where or 
how a client of mine raises the money to pay his just debts. 
If I get my honest dues that's all I'm concerned with. Only 
— Mackenzie was such a fine old chap ; now wasn't he, sir? 
And—" 



66 THE ALIBI 

Beside himself, Slayton whirled on the creature, his face 
a mask of hate. 

" Look out, you hell-hound ! " he flung at the usurer in a 
low voice of passion. "Look out that you don't get as 
much, some of these days, from one or another of the men 
and women you enjoy ruining, you blood-sucker 1 " 

"There, there, sir," returned the usurer, grinning with 
toothless gums. "Don't get excited, sir. What happens 
outside of this ofiice is no concern of old Jarboe's. We all 
of us have secrets. Skeletons rattle in every closet, sir. 
They rattle in mine. All well and good. Let them. 
Maybe they rattle in yours. I don't care. None of my 
business. If you have anything on me keep it to your- 
self. I'll do the same by you, sir. And maybe we'll do 
business again some of these times. Good day, sir; and 
thank you." 

Speechless with rage — rage so intense it swallowed even 
any alarm that old Jarboe's pregnant words might have 
awakened — Slayton left the office, slamming the door be- 
hind him. Only when he once more found himself in the 
street did he recover his full wits. But with the return of 
entire rationality he found all his residue of fear was gone. 
The interview with Jarboe had — for a time at least — ban- 
ished it. And, too, the feeling that after all these weary 
months and years of dickering and bargaining and begging 
and usury he once more was a free man, out of Jarboe's 
gnarled clutches, filled him with a vast, assuaging sense of 
relief. 

In vain now news-stands and shouting urchins assailed 
him with their visual and auditory shocks. Tall headlines 
and strident cries had lost their power to dismay him. Slay- 
ton felt as if he had been inoculated against emotion. His 
first severe panic, caused by his first hearing of the shout : 
" Bank murder 1 " had now, in subsiding, left his emotions 
a sterile medium. 



SLAYTON FACES THE CITY (fj 

The fires of fear had purged away most of the consum- 
able panic-material in his soul. He had received his neces- 
sary training. Now he felt a new boldness. A certain 
eagerness began to possess him ; an impatience to meet this 
peril, to face it down, to have it over and done with, once 
for all. 

" The quicker now the better ! " he growled, striding along 
with renewed strength. 

His intense anger at Jarboe had infused fresh virility into 
his look. His face betrayed no more emotion than might 
naturally have been expected there, now that the whole 
down-town section was reechoing to the news : 

*' Powhatan Bank Murder 1 " 

Suddenly he bethought him that he had not yet bought a 
paper. This in itself might look unnatural and give rise 
to suspicions. Surely he must have a paper. He purchased 
two — one yellow, the other moderate in tone — and thrust 
them into his overcoat pocket. 

It was impossible for him to force himself to read a single 
word of the story. Irresistibly it repelled him. But head- 
lines flung themselves at him as he paused at the news-stand, 
and would not be denied: 

NIGHT-WATCHMAN MURDERED IN COLD 

BLOOD ! 

ROBBERY THE MOTIVE — $150,000 STOLEN! 

Slayton knew he ought to read something of the murder. 
He understood perfectly well that the papers might con- 
tain information vital to his welfare — warnings, perhaps, 
or hints of conduct he might employ to strengthen suspicions 
of Mansfield. Yet, strive as he could, he found himself un- 
able to fix his thought on the printed columns as he walked 
on and on. Now that he was approaching the vortex of the 
crim^ a resistless force seemed to be dra\iv«ij|g;;ipm xmward, 



68 THE ALIBI 

downward, as into a whirlpool. All he desired now was to 
reach the bank and with his own eyes see again his horrible 
handiwork; with his own ears hear the infamy discussed; 
with his own mouth speak the words that should send an 
innocent boy to the electric chair. Hastening his step, he 
pressed on. 

Everywhere, he felt positive, people were talking of the 
tragedy. His exaggeration of its importance had become 
almost an obsession with him. In knots on curbs and cor- 
ners men were gathered. What else could they be discuss- 
ing save that? He saw open newspapers in office windows, 
with clerks and brokers reading them. They were reading 
details of the murder, of course; nothing else mattered now 
but this crime of his. 

As he walked down Cedar Street he thought the drift of 
traffic was setting toward the bank. A policeman on Wil- 
liam Street was obviously headed that way. As all roads 
lead to Rome, so now all Slayton's thoughts and sense-im- 
pressions drew toward that fatal spot where old man Mac- 
kenzie, shot down by his hand, lay rigid in the eternal mys- 
tery, death. 

Slayton reached the last comer, took a firmer grip on 
his resolution, and swung into the street itself where the 
bank stood. Now that the supreme moment was almost 
upon him, an icy coldness of determination had possessed 
his body, mind, and soul. A sphygmograph would hardly 
have registered his pulse as higher than normal. 

His face was pale and just a bit drawn about the mouth ; 
but who could question that ? Mackenzie had been his friend 
for many years. Had he not shown some natural emotion 
would it not have been strange indeed ? 

As he approached the bank he saw the street was almost 
blocked by the crowd that, morbidly curious, had clotted 
round the door. A number of policemen were doing their 
best to keep the traffic moving, but without any very maiiced 



SLAYTON FACES THE CITY 69 

isuccess. A motor patrol stood backed up to the sidewalk. 
Slayton caught sight of the uniform of a police surgeon. 

In the buildings opposite, eager faces crowded at the open 
windows, faces wherein no sympathy showed, faces merely 
gaping with pleasurable excitement. In one of the win- 
dows a moving-picture operator was steadily turning a 
crank. This scene would ere long appear on a multitude 
of screens as part of the news of the day. 

A shudder of repulsion passed through the cashier at 
sight of the sensation-seeking New York mob now clus- 
tering round the place of death, like flies on carrion. With 
this repulsion he felt at the same time a kind of strange 
and perverse pride that he, Walter Slayton, should be the 
cause of all this commotion. For a moment he understood 
the psychology of the low-grade murderer who cannot rest 
till he has returned to look once more on the face of his 
dead enemy. 

As he came on and on through the outskirts of the crowd, 
slowing through the thick of it, a reporter snapped a focal 
plane in his face. Slayton felt no emotion. Nothing in 
that photograph, though printed in a half-million edition, 
could harm him. He realized that, after all, his appear- 
ance could not matter much. A good deal of perturbation 
could pass unnoticed or be taken as quite natural. The 
sequence of circumstantial proof above all — this must be 
the determining factor in convicting. 

Sla)rton's relief became greater. He held his head well 
up now as he elbowed his way to the front. 

" Let me pass, here ! " he commanded. " Let me pass ! " 

A policeman halted him. 

"Nothin' doin', mister! Nobody else ain't allowed in 
the bank!*' 

Sla)rton flashed his card. With apologies the officer 
cleared a way for him. 

"Has the coroner come yet?" asked Slayton. 



70 



THE ALIBI 



The officer nodded. 

" He's just gettin' through viewin' the body," he answered. 
**He only come a few minutes ago. We had trouble lo- 
catin' him/' he added, while morbid bystanders craned and 
crowded to catch a word. 

"Any verdict?" 

" Not yet there ain't But it's a job, all right Some- 
body croaked him sure, and — " 

"Anderson found him? The janitor found him? Is 
that right?'* 

" That's right. When he opened the place the old man 
was layin' there cold!" 

Slayton pushed on through the big revolving doors into 
the lobby of the bank. Now finally he had reached the 
dreaded yet the longed-for place where lay his victim. 
Now his ordeal of self-control was crowding close upon 
him. Now at last the moment of supreme peril was at hand. 



CHAPTER IX 

THE TRAP OPENS 

WARILY, yet with the boldness that now alone could 
save him, the murderer advanced, his every sense 
alert for peril. 

A strange, unnatural tension reigned in the bank. None 
of its usual morning activities had as yet begun. Paral- 
ysis lay upon its entire life. Not a single one of its people 
could be seen in any of their accustomed cages. Here and 
there an officer in uniform or a plain-clothes man stood 
silently watchful. At one of the glass shelves on the left 
a man was busily writing — scrawling hasty lines on cheap 
paper. Slayton recognized a reporter and shuddered. 

Near a pillar at the end of the hallway a little knot of 
men, all unknown to Slayton, stood talking in low tones. 
One or two of them looked up at him. He felt again that 
horrible sensation that his guilt must be apparent to every- 
body. Once more he knew there must be blood upon his 
fingers. But with a strong effort he collected himself and 
advanced toward the little doorway that gave admittance 
to the grilled area of the bank. 

Through this grillwork Slayton could see another group 
of men, some of them employees of the bank, some stran- 
gers. One he recognized from newspaper pictures he had 
seen as Coroner Roadstrand. With the coroner was a 
medical-looking man. 

Slayton caught a fugitive glimpse of himself in a mirror. 
He perceived that he was very pale, but that his face be- 
trayed his crime he could not see. His thoughts were rac- 

71 



72 THE ALIBI 

ing like a sluice. He hardly knew whether to bless or curse 
the delay in the coroner's arrival. That delay explained, 
of course, why the body had not been already removed. In 
some ways this might make the situation harder for him. 
In others, he instinctively felt, it might help him. 

He shrank from viewing the corpse again, and yet he 
knew he must conceal this emotion. At that precise mo- 
ment of all moments the most acute peril would assail him. 

Where, he wondered, could Mansfield be? It was al- 
ready past the usual time for his appearance. Why had 
he not arrived? Slayton felt a burning eagerness to have 
him arrive, to be at work on the plot against him, to see the 
meshes tightening about the boy. 

And yet the cashier knew that Mansfield's tardiness would 
help the plot along. If by any chance the young chap 
should fail to come at all, that would be of tremendous im- 
portance. Every moment of delay now possessed enor- 
mous possibilities. 

His mind whirling with the strain of the situation, yet 
dominated by the overmastering determination to play the 
game to a finish, he approached the gateway in the grill. 
His re-awakening emotions exceeded an3rthing he had cal- 
culated on. He had believed himself now cold enough, 
calm and calculating enough, to preserve his poise even 
under these circumstances. 

But he had not reckoned on the reality. A glimpse of a 
still body, lying there under a blanket that had been drawn 
over it, sent his heart plumbing downward in sick horror. 

Sheridan, the paying-teller, glanced up as he approached, 
turned, and came toward him. One or two others in the 
group by the body looked at him. 

" Hello, here's Slayton ! Slayton's come ! " he heard 
voices. 

A hand fell on his arm. He started with a nervous shock. 
God! Arrests were made in just that way! The touch of 



THE TRAP OPENS 73 

that hand left him shaking with terror. For a second he 
thought catastrophe had smitten. Staring, he faced the 
man beside him. 

Another reporter! 

" Confound you, what are you doing in here? " demanded 
Slayton with passionate anger, reflex of his groundless 
fears. "What do you want, anyhow?" 

"Have you any opinion as to the identity of the mur- 
derer?" queried the reporter. 

" If I had, d'you think I'd tell youf' 

" I represent the Evening — '* 

" I don't give a damn what you represent ! In a case of 
this kind, where the personnel of the bank itself may pos- 
sibly be involved — Get out! Not a word; you under- 
stand? I refuse to be quoted for a single word! " 

Slayton flouted the reporter and strode on. His con- 
fidence had suddenly risen several degrees again. Those 
few words of his, he knew, had been a master-stroke. Al- 
ready the reporter was scribbling. Inside an hour, Sla3rton 
felt confident, staring head-lines would fling to the world : 

EMPLOYEE SUSPECTED OF BANK MURDER ! 

Could things be working out more admirably? 

Slayton smiled to himself. He opened the gateway and 
entered, removing his hat, wiping the sweat from his fore- 
head. Sheridan met him. Two or three others drifted 
his way. A hush fell on the low-voiced conversation in the 
group about old Mackenzie's body. 

"Why didn't you 'phone me, Sheridan?" demanded the 
cashier. " The first news I had was through the papers 
when I left the boat." 

"'Phone you? We did! You must have started for 
town, though. Nobody answered." 

"Missed me, all right. And my wife's away. Cham- 
beriaia down yet? 



»i 



74 THE ALIBI 



it 



Not yet But we've got him on the wire. He's started. 
My Heavens, Slayton, this is the limit ! Worst thing that's 
ever happened here. A hundred and fifty thousand gone 
clean, and the old man — ** 

'* I know ; I know. They haven't moved him yet, I see." 

" No. The coroner has just got through. Murder, of 
course. Person or persons tmknown. And — by Jove, 
I'm glad to see you, though. We're all more or less 
up in the air here. — Frankly, I don't know what to do, 
and—" 

" You haven't talked, I hope ? Haven't said anything to 
reporters or the police?" 

"Well—" 

Sheridan looked embarrassed. 

"Not much. That is—" 

Slayton laid a finger on his lips; 

" Nothing 1 " bade he. " And don't let any of the others 
talk. We've got to wait for Chamberlain. Time enough 
then. And, by the way, cable Williamson at once. Well 
need him." 

"All right Mighty imlucky, I think, that our vice- 
president should just happen to be in the Isle of Pines when 
this happens. He's got some head for a case like this." 

" Right I But it won't take long to get him back. Every- 
body else here?" 

" Yes." 

Slayton glanced round with a new sense of power. He 
was decidedly beginning to get his grip on the situation. The 
manner in which they were deferring to him as the highest 
bank official present was encouraging. Suspicion could 
not possibly rest on him, he felt positive. He was finding 
himself again. 

" You say they're all here ? " he demanded. 

"Why, yes. That is— " 

"Where's Mansfield?" 



» • ■ 



tt 

4t 



THE TRAP OPENS 75 

"Oh, Mansfield? Well, he's not down yet. I forgot." 

*' Hmmm I Not down ? Isn't he late ? " 

"Why, yes. A few minutes." 

Slayton seemed to ponder. His lower lip protruded ; his 
eyelids closed to slits. 

" Hmmmm I " he grunted again, but said no word. 

Sheridan r^arded him narrowly, a new suspicion now 
obviously dawning in his mind. All at once, in so low a 
tone that nobody else could overhear it, the cashier shot a 
question at him: 

" How are Mansfield's accounts ? " 
Why — all right, so far as I know.** 
So far as you know, eh? No shortage anywhere?'* 

" Not that I know of." 

" Have you inspected his books lately ? " 

"Well, no. That's not part of my duties — " 

" Make it part of them, then. Look them over immedi- 
ately. Give everything of his a careful going over." 

"Why, sir? You don't suspect — " 

"Never mind. Do as I say. Either inspect his books 
or have them inspected at once. Privately, you understand. 
And report to me. Then — " 

"There he is, nowl'* interrupted the teller, nodding 
toward the side door. Slayton turned sharply, his motion 
so acted as to give any beholder the idea that be and Sheri- 
dan had been discussing the young clerk. 

Mansfield had, indeed, just entered. At sight of him 
the cashier's heart leaped up with joy. Where he had pre- 
viously felt ninety per cent, safe, he now felt a hundred. 

The boy, honestly upset by the news of the tragedy — 
which he had read with intense horror while on his way 
down-town in the subway — had hung up his hat and over- 
coat in their accustomed place, and now stood surveying the 
scene with mute wonder and repulsion. 

His face, pallid and wan from the sleepless night h^ had 



76 THE ALIBI 

just passed and the racking emotions of the crisis he had 
weathered, expressed astonishment and fear. His hair was 
rumpled. In his perturbation he had neglected to shave. 
His boots, muddy and unpolished, still showed signs of the 
trip down over the country roads at Oakwood Heights. 
His clothes were creased and wrinkled. He had not gone 
to bed at all the night before, but in his distress had paced 
the floor of his room until in exhaustion he had flung him- 
self down for a little sleep. 

From this he had awakened too late for any change of 
clothes. At nine he knew he must be at Slayton's desk 
to get that envelope — his salvation. Breakfastless, un- 
nerved, and haggard he had rushed down-town. Then, on 
top of everything, this ghastly news had capped the climax 
of utter confusion. 

He knew the murder might prove fatal to him. His sor- 
row for old Mackenzie was overlaid by this stem fact. The 
deed might wreck all his plans for restitution. He must see 
Slayton at once and make sure of that money I Otherwise 
— ruin confronted him, the loss of his position, his good 
name, the girl, everything in lifel 

Yes; and the infamies of prison faced him, too. No 
more horrible calamity could have befallen him just at that 
juncture, than this disturbance of the bank's routine. What 
wonder then that the boy stood there haggard and dis- 
tressed ? 

But now his eye caught Slayton's. Yesl The cashier 
was certainly looking at him. The boy saw Slayton's head 
move and his eyes beckoning. The message was unmistak- 
able: 

" Come here ! " 

Hope revived. The cashier then, in spite of everything, 
was going to keep his promise I Mansfield felt the well- 
springs of joy and gratitude gush up. He forgot all jibout 
the murder for a moment in the ineflfable relief of tfaat beck- 



THE TRAP OPENS TJ 

oning nod. His head went up again. Confidently now and 
with a firm step he approached Slayton and the teller. 

But now, to his surprise, Slayton was regarding him 
coldly. Others were looking at him, too, with wonder and 
dawning mistrust. The coroner, leaving the body, was mov- 
ing toward him. 

Confused by all this, Mansfield hesitated. He realized 
that the moment was most inopportune. Even at the risk 
of exposure, he must not intrude at such a time. But Slay- 
ton had surely summoned him. Absolutely at a loss, the 
boy sto6d there, overcome by stage-fright, a prey to har- 
rowing indecision. 

**.Well, Mansfield, what do you want?" demanded Slay- 
ton curtly. 

"I — Nothing, sir." 

** Very well. Go to your desk." 

"Yes, sir." 

He stared at Slayton a moment, realizing that the man 
had betrayed him and that everything was lost. For a sec- 
ond a kind of shimmering black haze seemed to dance be- 
fore his sight. His hand went out, caught hold of a chair, 
and gripped it desperately. 

Then he pulled himself together, turned, and somewhat 
tmsteadily walked to his accustomed place in the bank. 
He sat down heavily in his chair. A curious, light sensa- 
tion seemed to have taken away all his strength. He had 
had no breakfast, and had slept but little. His physical un- 
fitness now gave free play to the ravages of the mental an- 
guish assailing him. He swayed as he sat there. His head 
swam. The pallor of his face was terrible to look upon. 

Every eye in the bank was on him. Already ugly sus- 
picion has begun to raise its head. 

But Slayton appeared to take no heed of this. He turned 
to the j^ying-teller. 

** Sheridan," said he, "please have the men go to their 



t4 
it 



78 THE ALIBI 

« 

desks. Have the curtains lowered at all the grills. We 
can't do any business for an hour or two — maybe more. 
We've got to see just how hard hit we are financially^ and 
get our bearings before we pay out another dollar. Un- 
derstand ? " 
Yes, sir.'* 
All right. Get busy I" 

He faced the coroner, and held out his hand. 

" Coroner Roadstrand, I believe ? " asked he. 

"Yes. Mr. Slayton?" 

They shook hands cordially. Then Roadstrand turned 
to the keen-eyed medical man with — a shrewd-look- 
ing doctor of more than middle age, with shell spectacles. 

" Dr. Nelson, Mr. Slayton." 

Another hand-shake. 

"Dr. Nelson often helps me with my cases,** explained 
Roadstrand. " I think we'll need him this time. Have you 
any theory. Any suspicions — any data?" 

Slajrton shook his head. 

" Not till we've examined the evidence," he parried. His 
eyes — involuntarily, as it seemed — turned for a fraction 
of a second toward the pallid, shaken figure of the boy now 
fighting for self-control at the desk in the comer. Road- 
strand and Nelson exchanged a significant glance. 

"Quite right," assented the coroner. "Evidence is all 
that we must go on." 

He turned toward the body, grim and rigid beneath its 
blanket. 

"Evidence," he repeated. "Let's examine it." 



9^ 



CHAPTER X 

THE PRELIMINARY INVESTIGATION 

UNDER Sheridan's orders the bookkeepers and clerks 
slowly dispersed to their posts. Miss Leavitt, the 
stenographer, and Miss McDonald, an assistant 
bookkeeper, who had just come in, were bidden to with- 
draw to the little room used by the women patrons of the 
bank and to stay there till further notice. One or two of 
the men made so bold as to smoke. Though this was against 
the rules, the nervous tension of the moment drove them 
to it, and Slayton did not stop them. 

Thus they waited, isolated from each other — waited with 
dread the inevitable ordeal now facing them. Each man 
knew himself absolutely innocent, yet the stress of the forth- 
coming inquisition weighed heavily upon them all. Evi- 
dence — circumstantial evidence above all — sometimes 
plays such fantastic tricks that not one of them felt secure 
from the possibility that the ultimate horror, the murder 
charge itself, might hang over him. 

Mansfield alone among them all did not feel this fear. 
He sat there in the darkened bank under the gleam of the 
incandescents — for Sheridan had ordered all shades drawn 
to keep the morbid crowd outside from peering in — and 
gave no thought to this new possibility of dread. As a mat- 
ter of fact, it never even occurred to him. The stress of 
the actually impending ruin now precipitated by Slayton's 
treachery left no room for any other suffering. Anguished 
and shaken, he sat there, staring at the ink-stained blotter 
on his desk, his mind racked with visions of the inevi- 
table destruction now close upon him. But of the murder 

79 



8o THE ALIBI 

charge as having any connection with himself he took no 
slightest thought. 

Not so, however, the others. They had already fixed the 
guilt, passed judgment and condemned him. As they took 
their places at their desks and counters, and as here or there 
a little roller-curtain was pulled down before a grill, 
scarcely one of them but turned curious eyes upon Mansfield 
— eyes hard with hostility, eyes of repulsion and accusa- 
tion, eyes that expressed no sympathy, no pity. Not all the 
boy's previous popularity, not all his fine, frank ways and 
hearty young manhood could stem the tide of that sus- 
picion. Already the shadow had fallen athwart his head. 
Though he himself realized it not, already the meshes of 
the net were closing round him. 

But of all this Slayton seemed to remain entirely unaware. 
He overheard no muttered syllable. He saw no look ob- 
lique with accusation. Dispassionate as fate itself, calm 
and judicial as a supreme-court justice, he had attention 
now only for the evidence that Roadstrand and the doctor 
could lay before him. However the tides of opinion in that 
little world of his, the bank, might run, obviously he could 
not be influenced thereby. 

" The evidence ! That's what we want, and nothing 
else," he echoed Roadstrand's words. " The quicker we 
see what we've got now and what it all means, the better." 

He stopped by the body. 

** Poor old chap ! " he commiserated. " He died game, 
anyhow. No widow to grieve, I'm glad to say. An old 
bach. Brother in Troy, I believe. Otherwise without 
family." 

He bent and drew back the blanket. His hand trembled 
a little, and for the fraction of a second a nervous twitch 
contracted his face ; but his eyes held steady as he examined 
the body, lying there stiffened in the blood he himself had 
spilled. 



THE PRELIMINARY INVESTIGATION 8i 

The old man had fallen on his right side. The distortion 
of his posture was not great. He seemed to have died in- 
stantly — to have fallen prone, shot through the vital re- 
spiratory center behind the ear. The waxen rigidity of his 
face looked less appalling now than when half seen by the 
gleam of the electric flash the night before. When Slayton 
realized that the ordeal of this inspection was one he could 
endure without flinching, a great burden seemed lifted in- 
stantly from his soul. 

Sheridan quietly returned as the cashier was gazing at 
the body. He joined the little group. The four men 
silently, studied the corpse a moment. Then Sla)rton spoke. 

" What was the idea in leaving him here so long? " asked 
he. ** I suppose Anderson found him at seven ? " 

" Yes," answered Sheridan. " He notified the police at 
once. By seven-fifteen everything was under surveillance." 

" Well, why wasn't the body taken away sooner? " 

" It couldn't be moved, anyhow, till I'd seen it," explained 
Roadstrand. 

" Oh, of course ! And you were on a case ? " 

Roadstrand nodded. 

" It's HeU the way I'm rushed," said he. " We're all up 
to our eyes in work all the time. Think of a city the size 
of New York with only five coroners I I got here as soon 
as I could, anyhow. And after I'd viewed the body the 
doctor and I agreed we'd better leave it till President Cham- 
berlain could see it, too. That might have some bearing on 
the case." 

Slayton shook his head. 

"No; none whatever," he answered. "Fm sure Mr. 
Chamberlain would be very glad indeed to avoid any such 
experience. He's getting along in years, you know, and 
— well — I think he can very well be spared this ordeal if 
it can possibly be arranged otherwise." 

" You'd prefer to have the body removed as soon as you've 



82 THE ALIBI 

seen all the available evidence? You'll be responsible for 
the bank in having us take such action?" 

" Yes." 

" Very well. As a matter of fact, Mr. Slayton, the body 
doesn't present much evidence of importance — only the 
wound itself and a few slight marks." 

"Let me see." 

And Slayton knelt by the body, keenly critical. 

Dr. Nelson turned the old man's head a trifle, the shoul- 
ders moving with it, for th^ full rigor had now set in. 

" The bullet struck here, you see," he explained, point- 
ing. " I judge it must have been fired from about twenty- 
five feet. Probably from the safe-door there." 

He nodded toward the door, still open and guarded by a 
policeman in uniform. 

"You see for yourself, it didn't come out again. It's 
in there somewhere. We'll find it, all right enough, at 
the autopsy." 

" Autopsy ? " 

"Of course. That bullet may be of great importance." 

" When will you recover it ? " 

"As soon as possible. This morning. At the morgue. 
I've already telephoned up for them to make preparations. 
We'll have that bit of lead before noon, at latest." 

"Good!" ejaculated Slayton. "You surely do get the 
facts in an efiicient way." 

His lean, pale face remained quite impassive. He 
blinked reflectively. 

"Anything else?" 

" Three marks on the breast," answered Roadstrand. 

" Marks ? Wounds, you mean ? " 

" No. Just blood-marks — finger-marks — see ? " 

He opened the old man's shirt a little more. It already 
gaped where Slayton had torn it apart with his own hands. 



THE PRELIMINARY INVESTIGATION 83 

On the left breast the cashier now plainly saw the three 
marks he had put there with Mansfield's glove. 

"So then," said he, "there must have been a strug- 
gle." 

" No, not that," said Nelson. " The murderer evidently 
put his hand in there to see if the heart was still beating 
— to see if life was fully extinct." 

** That's right; that's right," assented Slayton, getting 
up again. " You professional men have it all over us busi- 
ness drudges when it comes to an analysis of events and 
so on. I'd have surely said there was a struggle. But 
I see how it was now. In some way or other the murderer 
got his hand into the blood here on the floor, and then put 
it over the old man's heart. But then — haven't you got 
a valuable clue? Finger-prints there, and — and on the 
knob of the safe ? " 

Nelson shook his head. 

** No ; none at all. None — worse luck I " 

**How so?" 

" The criminal wore gloves." 

" Oh ! Gloves, eh ? It was all thought out beforehand, 
was it? Premeditated, and all that?" 

And Slayton, once more casting a glance — a gla^nce that 
was pure art — toward the annihilated Mansfield, drew out 
his cigarette-case. 

"Premeditated?" repeated Nelson. "Not necessarily; 
that is, so far as the murder itself was concerned. The 
robbery, of course, was well planned. The criminal has 
left no footprints of any value. He took ca|:e to conceal 
those as well as his finger-marks — wore rubbers or some- 
thing of the sort. Yes, he must have planned things very 
skilfully. 

" But so far as the murder goes, that may have been done 
on the spur of the moment, in a pinch. The old watchman 



84 THE ALIBI 

probably discovered him unexpectedly and — and got killed, 
that's all. The premeditated murder charge won't hold. It 
may even have been a case of self-defense. We don't 
know — yet." 

"I see," assented the cashier, lighting his cigarette. 
" You men fairly make my head whirl with your reasoning. 
I know I'm breaking the rules and setting a bad example to 
smoke here; but, confound it, in a case like this — " 

He turned to Sheridan. 

" We've seen enough, I guess," he judged. " Don't you 
think so?" 

" More than enough," assented the other. " I think we 
ought to have this taken away. Mr. Chamberlain would 
never get over it if he had to see it lying here." 

" Right 1 Better take it now. I understand all you've 
shown me, and can testify to it if need be. So can Sheri- 
dan." 

" Of course I can," affirmed the teller. 

'* All right. Let's clean things up here." 

"Very well," said Roadstrand. "And after that we'll 
look at two or three other interesting bits." 

He summoned the policeman who stood near the door, 
and gave a few curt orders. Presently, while the various 
employees, isolated and interned* at their desks and in their 
cages, watched with silent awe — with now and then a hate- 
ful glance at Mansfield — a couple of policemen with a 
stretcher came in, clumping heavily over the tiled floor. 

Two minutes later, under the white woolen blanket, old 
man Mackenzie had forever left the bank, his duty done, his 
story at an end, and all his debts fully paid. The eager 
crowd about the doors experienced a momentary thrill at 
sight of that stark figure. Then the stretcher with its light 
burden was shoved into the motor patrol. The policemen 
climbed in after it and drew the doors close behind them. 
The engine accelerated, the siren screamed, the patrol plowed 



THE PRELIMINARY INVESTIGATION 85 



away through the throng and headed northward toward the 
morgue. 

Old man Mackenzie, now but a piece of evidence, was on 
his way toward the autopsy-table. 

Within the bank, Sla3rton inhaled a lungful of smoke and 
blew it out with nervous energy. 

" Sheridan," said he, " have Anderson clean this up — if 
he can — and put fresh sawdust over it. We'll have new 
tiles laid in a day or two ; but for now tell him to do the best 
he can." 

He turned to Roadstrand and the doctor. 

** Now then 1 " said he. ** Let's go over the rest of the 
evidence. The quicker we get at the bottom facts in this 
terrible affair and have the murderer behind bars, the bet- 
ter." 



CHAPTER XI 

THE FINGER OF EVIDENCE 

ROADSTRAND motioned toward the directors' room. 
"' It mightn't be a bad idea to have a little more 
privacy than we can get here/' suggested he 
** We've already got our hands on one or two matters of in- 
terest. Suppose we go in there to examine them — eh ? ** 

"All right," assented Slayton* "Come on, Sheridan. 
You're in on this, too." 

The four men approached the private room. Their way 
led past the safe door. 

" Just a minute," said the cashier. 

He examined the combination, swung the door open, 
stepped inside the vault, and almost closed the door. For a 
brief moment he was there, alone. Swiftly he cast a glance 
around, particularly at the floor. 

Had he left any sign, dropped anything, given any clue 
or hint of the crime? No; he could find nothing. Re- 
lieved, freed from a small but insistent fear that, like an ob- 
session, had for some time been gnawing at his soul, he 
opened the door again and peered out. 

" Shot Mackenzie from here, you think? " queried he. 

Nelson removed his spectacles, scratched his bald spot, 
and nodded. 

" It looks that way," he judged. 

"And after that robbed the safe? You think the roli- 
bery followed the murder?" 

" Probably so. At any rate, the robbery was nq hurried 
affair. The criminal evidently knew all about the location 

86 



THE FINGER OF EVIDENCE 87 

of the different kinds of funds, and, moreovery he under- 
stood the bank's system of books and accounts/' 

"How so?" 

** Why, don't you know ? He took only one-thousand-dol- 
lar bills, and he also mutilated the ledger containing records 
of the numbers of those bills." 

"Nol You don't say sol" 

"I do say so. That's why — that's one reason why — 
we've figured that only an employee of the bank could have 
done it ; that, and the fact that the safe was opened with the 
combination. No finger-prints here at all," and Nelson 
touched the shining combination-knob. "No violence of 
any kind. The thing was all planned out in advance, and 
was surely pulled off by a man who had access to the cipher 
of the combination. That means a bank employee, doesn't 
it?" 

Slayton raised his eyebrows. 

" I'm afraid it does," he answered. " I'm very — much 
— afraid it does. And if I'm not mistaken — " 

"Well?" demanded Roadstrand. 

"Oh, nothing I We mustn't form any opinion at all 
without the evidence. Let's see, now." 

He re-entered the safe. Sheridan followed him. 

"What does the loss total, Sheridan, so far as you 
know?" 

" A hundred and fifty thousand." 

" All in those one-thousand-dollar bills ? " 

Slayton pointed at the ravaged compartment. 

"Yes. And — see here?" 

Sheridan indicated an empty place in the file of the bank's 
books, standing on their carpeted shelf. 

"He didn't take the whole record-ledger, did he?" de- 
manded Slayton. 

" No. It's in the directors' room. But all the pages with 
the one-thousand-dollar-bill records are gone. You'll see." 



8» THE ALIBI 

"Hmmm! A clever idea, at that!" Slayton muttered. 
"We aren't dealing with any fool, believe me, gentlemen! 
We're up against a slick proposition — a long-headed fel- 
low, and no mistake. 

" Well, enough of this. Now let's see that ledger and 
whatever else there is that bears on the case." 

They all proceeded to the directors' room. Slayton closed 
the door. Outside in the bank itself, isolated anxiety con- 
tinued to hold the clerks and officers in bonds of terrible sus- 
pense. Some were smoking, some making a pretense of 
work, some aggressively assuming indifference. 

Mansfield was doing nothing of the kind. Plainly in a 
blue funk, he was sitting at his desk, elbow on the blotter, 
face hidden in hand, a picture of the most absolute despair 
and misery. And back and forth passed looks from clerk 
to bookkeeper and from messenger to clerk; and here a 
raised eyebrow, there a dour grimace, yonder a shrug of the 
shoulder told their thought. 

Indifferent to it all, Mansfield sat there, buried in his 
anguish. 

*' I am ruined," he was thinking. " Position, honor, repu- 
tation — everything is gone. I am lost. Enid is gone for- 
ever. Ever)rthing's all over now." 

Through the glass of the door, Slayton caught a glimpse 
of Mansfield, and saw a look that passed between Parker, 
the messenger, and the assistant bookkeeper. Holmes. He 
thrilled with joy. Even though he should say no further 
word, should never raise his hand to point at Mansfield, 
should never give this thing another moment's thought, he 
felt positive the boy would go to Sing Sing, maybe to the 
chair. 

And, realizing the perfection of the frame-up, he felt a 
glow of pride. If this were not a masterpiece of deception, 
had one ever been conceived and executed since time be- 
gan? 



THE FINGER OF EVIDENCE 89 

Slayton faced the others. Still cold and unmoved, his 
lean face showed rather more than its usual pallor. Sheri- 
dan, of ruddy visage and portly build, frowned with anxiety 
and nibbled at a pencil with perturbation. 

" Shall we sit down ? " asked Roadstrand. 

Slayton nodded. All four of them — Roadstrand, Nel- 
son, Slayton and Sheridan — drew up chairs about the broad 
oak table of the bank directors. The cashier lighted an- 
other cigarette. In spite of every effort of the will and 
every self-assurance of safety, he found himself a bit nerv- 
ous again. 

All this suavity, all this seeming acquiescence with his 
ideas, might they not be only part of a trap to lead him on 
and snare him in the end? 

He trusted nobody. Were he to come through this thing 
alive and free, it must be through his own wit and nerve and 
energy. The slightest misstep might cost him liberty, might 
cost him life. Not for one second must he relax his watch- 
fulness or leave the way open for psychic shock or physical 
surprise. 

Thus, weighing the others' knowledge and motives, he 
sat there with them at the table. But on no face appeared 
the slightest tinge of ruse or suspicion. The doctor, the 
coroner, the paying-teller all seemed honest, frank and un- 
suspecting. Slayton felt positive that, so far at least, he had 
made good his bluff and kept the assumption of his inno- 
cence intact. 

" Let's see the ledger," said he. '* That may give us some 
clue." 

Sheridan handed it to him, bringing it from the mantel 
where it had been lying. 

" Well, well I " said Slayton, opening it and studying the 
mutilations with keen interest. " He made a clean sweep, 
didn't he? And, so far as I see, there's nothing here to tell 
us what hand ripped the leaves out. Is there? " 



90 THE ALIBI 

The doctor shook his head. 

" Absolutely nothing," he answered. " But as a piece of 
subsidiary evidence, to show the high mental caliber and keen 
wit of the criminal, the ledger possesses considerable value." 

Sheridan took the ledger away. Roadstrand, meantime, 
had pulled a little bundle from his pocket. He now undid 
the rubber bands that held it and opened it out on the table. 

'* Here," said he, ** is something of vital moment. It has 
already led me to form certain theories. Let me have your 
opinion and see if it coincides with mine -^ with the doc- 
tor's and mine." 

Speaking, he took out a soiled, ash-covered glove, and 
handed it to Slayton. 

** What do you make of that? " he asked. 

** Where did you find it? " queried the cashier, suppressing 
his elation. ** A great deal depends on that." 

** Right ! A very great deal indeed. Well, we found this 
in front of the furnace, buried in ashes." 

" Have you got the other ? " 

** Not yet. I think we'll find nothing but the metal snap. 
Undoubtedly that will turn up in the ashes under the fur- 
nace, when sifted." 

" You mean then," asked Slayton meditatively, '* that the 
murderer meant to throw both gloves into the furnace, but 
in his hurry and excitement dropped one, and the ashes fell 
over it when he opened the furnace door? " 

" Something like that. Now do you recognize the glove ? " 

Slayton turned it and examined it carefully, then shook 
his head. 

'* No," said he. ** There are no distinguishing marks. I 
can't tell anything about it. Hello ! What's this? " 

He pointed at the fingers. Three of them were stained 
with dull red, to which ashes adhered in minute fiakes. 

" That," answered the doctor, " is blood." 



THE FINGER OF EVIDENCE 91 

" So then — This is the very glove that was on the mur- 
derer's hand when he felt of old Mackenzie's heart? " 

** Good reasoning 1 " commended Roadstrand. ** Now, if 
we can only prove the ownership of the glove 1 " 

"Anything else?" 

** Yes ; several things. See here 1 " 

He took a small button from the package and gave it to 
the cashier. 

** That/' said he, " was found about four feet from the 
body, near the grillwork." 

" Tom oflf in the struggle ? " asked Slayton. 

"Don't know. We don't think there was any struggle. 
The old man was probably shot from the safe, you remem- 
ber. Death must have been instantaneous. Don't you 
think so, doctor ? " 

" I'm sure of it," affirmed Nelson. 

** So then, this button — ? " interrogated the cashier. 

" Probably just happened to fall off. It must have been 
loose. Perhaps when the murderer thrust his hand into the 
old man's breast he scraped the button off. We don't know ; 
can't tell ; but here it is, anyhow. Can you identify it? " 

The cashier studied it attentively, turning it over and oVfer 
in his bony fingers. 

" Hmmm 1 " he grunted, a world of meaning in the mono- 
syllable. 

Roadstrand and the doctor exchanged a keen glance. 

*' Well, whose is it ? " demanded the coroner. 

•* I can't say positively." 

** Have you an opinion? " 

« Yes." 

••Well?" 

^ I'd rather see some more of the evidence before making 
any statement." 

** All right! Here's something of still further interest." 



92 THE ALIBI 

Roadstrand unfolded a paper that had been inside the 
parcel, and spread it out on the table. 

" What do you make of that ? " he asked. 

Slayton, now for the first time facing the unexpected, be- 
held six or eight gray hairs, stiflf and rather wiry. He 
blinked with involuntary alarm. 

" What do you make of those ? " demanded the coroner 
again. 

"Make of them? Why, nothing. What are they?" 
countered the cashier, sparring for time, if only a few sec- 
onds, to collect his thoughts. 

He failed to comprehend what was coming now ; but with 
extreme wariness he was steeling himself against any sur- 
prise or attack. 

" What are they ? " 

** Gray hairs, of course." 

" Yes, I know ; but what have they got to do with this case ? 
Where did you find them?" 

" In the gripping fingers of the old man ! Now, how shall 
we explain that?" 

Slayton felt suddenly very sick. In a flash he knew the 
truth, the answer to the riddle. Those hairs belonged to that 
wig he had worn — the wig that old Mackenzie had picked 
up — the wig that had been the direct cause of the crime it- 
self. When he had pulled the wig away from the dead 
man's hand a few hairs had come out. Now those hairs 
constituted a menace terrible in its possibilities; a deadly 
peril as unexpected as it might prove fatal. 

The cashier realized only too well on how slight pivots the 
whole machinery of justice may turn, and how minute a bit 
of evidence may lead a murderer to the chair. Had he pos- 
sessed a million dollars he would have given them all, and 
more, with eager joy, to have those few hairs in his keeping, 
to destroy them, to remove them forever from the searching 
ken of scientists and lawyers. 



THE FINGER OF EVIDENCE 93 

He knew that he was paling ; he knew his face had altered, 
despite his every effort at indifference; and to conceal his 
emotion he took the paper with the hairs in it, bent his 
brows, and studied them with intense application. 

Then finally he shook his head. 

" I don't make anything of these at all," said he. " Un- 
less, of course, the old man might — might have — " 

He paused, seeking the idea that would not fully come. 
Then with inspiration he concluded: 

** — might have clutched at his head in agony and pulled 
these out." 

" Very good," put in the doctor. " But they aren't human 
hairs at all." 

" They're notf " ejaculated Slayton, terribly shaken. 

** No ! Even a cursory examination with a pocket lens 
convinces me of that. They belong to, well — " 

" To what? " the cashier demanded. 

Sheridan leaned forward eagerly. 
Some animal, I think," the doctor said. 
Animal? But how the devil could they get into his 
grasp, then ? " 

" That's exactly what puzzles me," answered the doctor. 
*'The circumstance is most baffling. What this means 
I frankly don't know. But, if rightly interpreted, this 
single bit of evidence might go far toward solving the 
mystery/' 

Though Slayton felt a horrible sinking sensation at the pit 
of his stomach, he managed to remain calm. 

" This clue certainly ought to be followed," he suggested. 

" It will be,'* affirmed the doctor, " to the end." 

The room seemed swimming before Slayton's eyes, but he 
still sat there resolutely, staring at the diabolical little wisps 
of hair on the bit of paper. At the very outset, he realized, 
he had received a blow that might yet nullify all his plans 
and land him in the chair. To his mind recurred the old 






94 THE ALIBI 

saying that even the cleverest criminal always leaves some 
loophole open, or drops some clue, that may convict him. 

" That wig 1 That infernal wig 1 ** thought he. 

A thousand times better would it have been had he gone to 
the bank undisguised than to have left this terrifying evi- 
dence in the old man's dead fingers. 

Holding his nerve by a supreme effort, he shoved the paper 
back toward Roadstrand. 

** I can't oflfer any suggestion about this," said he, forcing 
his eyes to meet the coroner's. " Let's leave it aside for a 
while. Have you anything else of value? " 

Roadstrand drew out his pocketbook, extracted from it an 
envelope, and laid it on the table. 

"Here," said he, "is something of the highest impor- 
tance." 

Speaking, he folded the hairs up again in their paper and 
replaced them in the little parcel. 

" We haven't succeeded yet in locating the pages torn from 
the ledger; but, judging by the use the criminal made of the 
furnace in the basement, we're pretty positive he must have 
burned them there. This envelope here " — and Roadstrand 
took it up again — ^"contains three bits of paper that he 
dropped when he tore up and burned something he knew had 
to be destroyed. We found these three tiny scraps on the 
basement floor about an hour ago. Please see if you can 
identify them." 

Sla3rton prepared himself for a fresh shock in case this 
new evidence should also be something dangerous to him. 
He watched eagerly as Roadstrand shook the contents of the 
envelope upon the polished wood. 

Then with relief he recognized the minute bits of paper 
he had purposefully " planted " on the basement floor — the 
little fragments of the cipher with which he had opened the 
safe. His heart leaped for joy. Here now was one more 



THE FINGER OF EVIDENCE 95 

stq> toward the goal, one more factor in the working-out of 
his plan. 

He picked up one of the bits — another ; then the third. 
He studied them and turned them over ; then, thrusting out 
his lower lip, he frowned and said : 

" Why — it's the cipher ! The combination I '* 

** It is, eh ? " queried Nelson. " You recognize it, then ? " 

** I certainly do 1 See this ' 5 ' here and this * sto ' ? I 
ought to know this carbon-copy — I made it myself ! Only 
two of these ciphers existed. Chamberlain's got the original. 
And—" 

"What does that 'sto' mean, anyhow?" put in Road- 
strand. 

** It's part of the word * stop.' The cipher read : * R, 
so-and-so ; L, so-and-so to stop.' The murderer just hap- 
pened to let this piece fall, when he tore it up and threw it 
into the fire. Understand ? " 

" Yes. That's what I thqyght it was — the ccmibination. 
Nelson didn't quite agree, but I knew I was right. What 
I don't understand, though, is how the crook got hold of 
that paper in the first place. Where did you keep it ? " 

" Keep it? Why, locked in my desk, of course," answered 
Slayton,. sensing a disagreeable measure of inquisition in the 
coroner's question. 

"Which drawer?" 

« Upper right hand." 

** And you're sure it was locked -in there last night when 
you went home?" 

" Positive 1" 

" All right. That accounts for it, then." 

" Accounts for what ? " 

'* For that drawer being broken open. One of the things 
we established after the first essentials had been attended to 
was that your desk had been tampered with." 



96 THE ALIBI 

" The lock picked, you mean ? *' 

Roadstrand nodded. 

" This is what I took out of it," said he. 

From his waistcoat pocket he produced a pointed bit of 
steel. 

" That was broken short off in the lock," he explained, 
turning it in his wiry fingers. *' What do you make of it? " 

" It looks like a paper-cutter or something of that sort," 
judged the cashier. " Now, if you could only find the rest 
of it, you'd have some mighty valuable evidence. Evidence, 
I should say, that ought to convict" 

" We have found it already," smiled Roadstrand. 

As he spoke he drew the broken letter-opener from his 
upper vest-pocket. "Now, whose is it?" 

*' Where did you find it?" 

*' In a gray coat hanging near the assistant bookkeeper's 
desk." 

"A gray coat?" Slayton exclaimed. "Why, that's 
Holmes's ! I never would have believed — " 

" Don't get excited," cautioned Roadstrand, while the doc- 
tor smiled tolerantly and Sheridan nervously rubbed his 
shaven chin. " The mere fact that it was in a certain man's 
pocket doesn't prove it belongs to that man. In fact, it 
might rather prove the contrary. The opener might have 
been dropped into that coat-pocket as a blind. Look at it, 
please, and see if you can identify it." 

He handed it to Slayton. As the cashier took it he felt 
his heart thump violently. Now that the first opportunity 
had arisen to make any direct accusation, he found his nerves 
were jumpy as a cat's. Desire whispered: 

" Accuse directly and with boldness." 

Caution bade : 

*' Not yet ! Gk) slow 1 " 

And caution won. Shaking his head, he answered : 

** I can't tell whose it is. There are several in use here 



THE FINGER OF EVIDENCE 



97 



They're all pretty much alike. Do you recognize it, Sheri- 
dan?" 

He gave the broken opener to the teller. Sheridan scru- 
tinized it beneath bent brows, then looked up sharply. 

" What's this ' A. M.' scratched in the handle here? " 
. "'A. M.'?" demanded Slayton. " Is there an ' A. M.' ? " 

"See?" 

Sheridan pointed. Yes, there the letters were rudely 
scratched, as with a penknife, in an idle moment. 

" * A, M.,' sure enough," said the cashier. " Why, there's 
Moore ; but his first name is Edward, and there's — there's 
nobody else except — well — " 

"Mansfield?" demanded the doctor. 

Slayton nodded. 

" What's his first name ? " 

" Arthur." 

The silence that followed was vast in its potentialities. 
Roadstrand broke it. 

" I think," said he, " we'd better have a little talk with that 
young man." 



CHAPTER Xn 

INQUISITION 

SLAYTON r^[arded the coroner for a pr^;nant mo- 
ment, without a word. Then, leaning forward across 
the table, he forced himself to look Roadstrand fair 
in the eyes. 

" You mean — ?" he whispered tensely. 

** Can Mansfield ! *' 

The cashier's heart surged with exultation. A dizzying 
sweep of joy surged over him. Already he had forgotten 
the accursed possibilities dormant in those white hairs found 
in Mackenzie's stiffened hand. He motioned to Sheridan. 

" Get Mansfield," he repeated the order. 

The teller rose, stood there a moment beside the table, and, 
resting his knuckles on the wood, looked first at Roadstrand, 
then at Nelson. 

" Gentlemen," said he slowly, ** as far as that boy's con- 
cerned, 111 take my oath — " 

"No matter about your oath," snapped the coroner 
angrily. "Your oath isn't worth a damn, in this case. 
Here's evidence that points directly at him. His appearance 
this morning is damaging. Things would look black for the 
angd Gabriel himself with that kind of proof against him. 
We want to talk with this Mansfield fellow. Bring him in 
here right away." 

" All right ; but you're making a fearful mistake, just the 
same," retorted Sheridan with some heat. " That kid's as 
square and white as — " 

" Can that 1 " exclaimed Roadstrand. *' Go get him ! ** 

98 



INQUISITION 99 

Slayton snapped peremptory fingers. 

" Are you going to get him, or shall I ? " he demanded. 

The teller, yielding to authority, turned and walked re- 
luctantly toward the door. But he did not open it. In- 
stead, he faced round, stood there motionless, and directed a 
keen, suspicious glance at Sla3rton — a glance by no means 
lost on the cashier. 

**ni be damned if I willl" he suddenly exclaimed. 
" That bo/s got no more to do with it than I have. I'm not 
going to be the bearer of any such message to him. I won't 
be a party to any such an accusation, even to the extent of 
summoning him in here." 

Slayton laughed sneeringly. 

" You're a fool, Sheridan 1 " he snarled out. " Suit your- 
self, though. It doesn't matter. But I tell you right now 
your attitude is liable to be misconstrued — ^" 

" What d' you mean ? " demanded the teller, clenching his 
fist " Are you insinuating — " 

**Sit down and shut upl" commanded Slayton. "Or 
else get out ! " 

Their eyes met angrily. Sheridan, eagerly desirous of be- 
ing present in Arthur's behalf at the interrogation, subsided. 
He came back and sank down into his chair by the table 
again. 

" That's all right," he growled. " But I know Arthur, 
and I know he's straight. And if you mean to infer that 
I—" 

Sla3rton reached out and pressed a push-button at the side 
of the table. A buzzer sounded outside. Parker, the mes- 
senger, started up as if the current had passed through his 
body and came to the door of the directors' room. He 
opened it and stood there, pale and scared — but no more 
frightened than every living soul out there in the offices and 
cages, waiting in terror for the catastrophe that might strike 
like lightning where it willed. 

78511! 



100 THE ALIBI 



" Tell Mansfield we want him," bade Slayton. 

^'Yes, sirl" 

And Parker departed, vastly relieved that the finger of 
accusation had not been leveled at him. He stopped by 
Mansfield's desk. 

" They want you in there," said he with rare tact. " I 
guess you're in bad." 

" What? " asked Mansfield duUy. " Who wants me? " 

'TA^ydo — intherel" 

Parker jerked his thumb over his shoulder. 

"What for?" 

"Searching/" 

"They didn't say what for?" 

" Go an' see," the messenger answered coldly. " I guess 
you know, all right, all right 1 " 

A confused murmur rose in the bank. With dour sus- 
picion everybody was eying Mansfield. He stood up, 
blinked for a moment, and looked first one way, then the 
other. Somewhat dazed, he turned to Paiicer. 

" In there, you mean ? " he queried. " In the directors* 
room?" 

" Uh-huh ! An' you better be on your way, too. They 
don't act as if they was very patient." 

Mansfield, moving as if in a dream, slowly started toward 
the room down the grilled passageway. A score of hostile 
eyes followed his every step with cold analysis and con- 
demnation. 

** Thumbs down I " the verdict was already, before a single 
bit of evidence had been adduced. 

The boy, his mind wholly occupied with the disaster that 
had come upon him through Slayton's treachery — for no 
slightest suspicion of any greater peril had even so much as 
occurred to him — hung his head and sagged along, pallid, 
disheveled, haggard. Eagerly the others watched him as he 
passed that grim, sawdust-covered spot on the tiles. 



INQUISITION loi 

No sign there? He gave no sign, showed no repulsion, 
quivered not with horror of the place? 

" The scoundrel I " muttered Parker, frowning blackly. 
" Hard as a rock 1 There's a nice, mild character for you ; 
what? Guilty as Hell, and never bats an eye 1 " 

Mansfield, oblivious to all this hostility — or, subcon- 
sciously noting it, attributing it only to his theft, which now 
must surely be known — reached the door of the directors' 
room. He paused there a moment to gather himself to- 
gether, a little. Then, very pale, but with his jaw hard- 
closed, his eyes half questioning, half defiant, he swung the 
door and entered. 

" You sent for me? '* he questioned huskily. " Well, I'm 
here." 

** Yes ; so we observe, Mansfield," answered Roadstrand 
with a grim smile. " Come in and shut the door. We want 
to ask you a few questions." 

" All right ; I'm ready." 

He closed the door and advanced toward the table. 

"What is it you want to know? I'm ready. I won't 
hide anything. It wouldn't do any good, anyhow. Mr. 
Sla3rton here knows all about it I thought he was going to 
help me — " 

" Mansfield ! Look out ! " exclaimed the cashier. " I 
warn you now you'll gain nothing by lying." 

"But you did promise 1 Last night! You won*t deny 
that, will you?" demanded Arthur, amazed. "If you'd 
kept your word I could have — " 

m 

" No more of that now 1 " interrupted the coroner. 
" This isn't a wrangling match or a joint debate." 

He turned to Slayton. 

" In a word, what's this he says about you ? What are the 
facts?" 

Sheridan, an odd look coming into his eyes, leaned for- 
ward eagerly. 



I02 THE ALIBI 

The doctor squinted interrogatively through his spectacles. 
Slayton smiled with a glint of those white teeth of his. 

*' Mansfield called on me last night at about eleven-thirty/' 
said he, ** at my house in Oakwood Heights. He told me he 
was twelve hundred and fifty dollars short in his accounts, 
and asked me to lend him enough to cover the deficit I re- 
fused and — '* 

"That's a lie!'' 

" Silence I " shouted the coroner. " You, Mansfield, keep 
still there I " 

" But he said — ^" persisted Mansfield. 

" Sh-h-h-h, Arthur 1 " cautioned Sheridan, clapping him on 
the shoulder. "One at a time. Don't get excited. The 
facts will all come out in due course. Let him speak." 

"All right," answered the boy. "But I know what I 
know I" 

'* I refused, of course," continued Slayton. " He en- 
treated, but in vain. He even threatened me with an auto- 
matic pistol ; but I held firm, and — " 

" My God, what lies ! What infamous — " 

" If you don't keep still, young man, I'll — 111 have you 
gagged!" roared the coroner in a passion. "Not another 
word till I tell you to speak! Understand? " 

" Shall I continue or not ? " demanded the cashier. " You 
understand, naturally, I can't give a connected narrative with 
these crude interruptions." 

" Go on," directed Roadstrand. " Interruptions, eh ? I'd 
like to hear him interrupt again. Go on I " 

" I refused, and held to my refusal. He left me at about 
eleven-fifty, I think, and caught the midnight train to St. 
George's. I read a while, wrote and posted a letter to toy 
wife, and then went to bed. That's all the direct testimony 
I can give. The rest is up to you." 

" Thank you," said Roadstrand. " Very clear and very 
concise. That explains a number of things." 



INQUISITION 103 

He turned to Mansfield. 

" Now then," he interrogated, " jrou admit the shortage ? " 

** Yes, sir. I'm not going to try to hide that, or anything." 

" Is that amount correct — twelve himdred and fifty dol- 
lars?" 

" Yes, sir." 

"Why did you take it?" 

"I — I can't tell." 

"You refuse?" 

"Positively!" 

'* Put that down, Nelson," directed the coroner. " Make 
an especial note of that. He refuses to tell why he 
stole." 

"Merciful Heavens, Arthur I" exclaimed Sheridan in 
deep distress. " What's this you say ? You — you're really 
short ? You took that much ? " 

" It's a fact, Mr. Sheridan. I admit it Only I thought 
Mr. Slayton here was going to help me out. He promised 
to, but for some reason or other changed his mind. So now 
I'm in bad — right up against it." 

He paused. Slayton's sneering laugh was more effective 
than an angry outburst. That laugh said : 

" Oh, yes, indeed 1 I, Walter Slayton, the respectable — 
I would be likely to compound a felony, would I not? As 
likely as to — commit a murder 1 " 

Tense silence held the room in thrall. One could hear the 
boy's quickened breath. The ticking of the little alabaster 
clock on the mantel sounded strangely loud. For the space 
of five seconds no man spoke. Then all at once the coroner 
leaned forward, jabbing a finger at Mansfield. 

"Remember now," said he sharply, "anything you say 
here may be used against you. I'm a judge, ex-otHcio. 
This is an official preliminary hearing." 

" In that case," interposed Sheridan, " this boy must have 
counseL" 






104 THE ALIBI 

*' Sit down and keep still," directed Nelson. " We're run- 
ning this interrogation, not you." 

" I'm within my rights as his friend to insist that he say 
nothing tmtil he had been advised by a competent lawyer. 
I volunteer to produce such a one inside of five min- 
utes." 

'* If you can't keep out of this, Sheridan," exclaimed the 
cashier angrily, " you'd better leave the room." 

" Order, here 1 " cried Roadstrand, rapping the table vig- 
orously with his knuckles. '' Now then, Mansfield, you 
needed money badly?" 

" No, sir. Not any more than the twelve hundred and 
fifty dollars. And I'd have put that back, all right, and made 
good if he hadn't double-crossed me — " 

No more of that!" exclaimed the coroner sternly. 

We'll leave out all accusations. Don't bring anybody else 

into this. We're dealing with you, and you alone. You 

admit being at Oakwood Heights and having a pistol ? " 
** I " 

" Arthur 1 " exclaimed Sheridan, taking him by the arm. 
** See here 1 You don't know what you're saying. You're 
all balled up. They'll tangle you up here inside of five min- 
utes so tight that the devil himself couldn't untangle you. 
You keep still now! I'm going to 'phone for a lawyer, 
and—" 

" Silence ! " shouted Roadstrand, turning quite purple in 
the face. " I simply will not and cannot have these inter- 
ruptions ! I've got authority here as much as I'd have in a 
court-room. This interfering with a witness can't be toler- 
ated, and sha'n't be. Go on now, Mr. Sheridan. Leave the 
room, and don't let's have any trouble about it ! " 

Sheridan gasped with rage and clenched his fists, but 
Slayton now had risen and was facing him. 

" Are you going to obey the legally constituted authorities 
of the County of Manhattan, or shall we have to use force ? '* 



INQUISITION los 

demanded Slayton, *' There are two or three officers out- 
side there. It's up to you I " 

Sheridan turned on him with a snarl of passion, of loath- 
ing, of intense suspicion. 

" Don't worry 1 " he exclaimed. " Til go, all right. And, 
what's more, my resignation from this bank takes place im- 
mediately. No more job for me in a place that tolerates a 
skunk like you ! So much for that. 

" But there's another thing. You won't be through with 
me when I go out of that door. I'm going to watch this case 
right through to the end. I see how it's drifting and I'll 
watch it, never fear. You're smooth, Slayton ; you're oily, 
slick and suave. But you can't put anything over on me. 
So now you know. That's all for you! 

*' Arthur I" and he seized the boy by the hand. "You 
take my advice. Don't tell anything. Don't admit a single 
thing 1 Don't speak a word till you've seen a lawyer. That's 
within your constitutional right. Remember now — and 
God help youl Remember 1" 

He released Arthur's hand and strode to the door. 

" See here, you 1 " cried Roadstrand. " I think you'll bear 
a little watching. Not a step outside this building do you 
stir till this thing's settled. So don't try it. Now get out 
of here and stay out 1 " 

" Don't you worry about my leaving," sneered the teller. 
" Next thing I know you'll be trying to put this over on me! 
AH right; go to it. I'll stick till Hell freezes, but I'll see 
justice done that boy I " 

The door banged vigorously behind him. Pale with con- 
suming anger, he returned to his desk, leaving Mansfield 
in the hands of the inquisition. 

" Lord 1 If he only remembers what I've told him I " mut- 
tered the teller. " If he only remembers and keeps still 1 " 

Roadstrand, meanwhile, was exchanging a significant 
glance with the doctor. 



io6 THE ALIBI 

" Extraordinary actions, I must say," he remarked, swab- 
bing his face with his handkerchief — for anger always made 
him sweat. " That fellow will bear watching, believe me. 
It wouldn't surprise me if he — " 

"You think so?" 

" It's possible — as an accessory, you understand. We'll 
have tabs kept on him, at any rate. Now then 1 " 

Once more he turned to Mansfield. 

" Enough of all this matter of the robbery. Enough for 
the present Let us pass to other things. You admit hav- 
ing had a pistol, do you ? " 

Arthur hesitated. His eyes sought the glass door through 
which Sheridan could now be seen, seated at his desk. 
Should he answer any questions, or should he refuse, as 
Sheridan had told him? 

" Come on, Mansfield 1 Speak up 1 " directed Slayton. 
*' What did you do with that automatic after you left me? " 

The boy gaped at him, amazed. 

" What — what did I do with it ? " he stammered, trapped 
into the damaging admission. "Why, nothing, of course. 
Seeing that you took it away from me and put it in your desk 
drawer and kept it, how — how could I have done anything 
with it?" 

The cashier smiled triumphantly. 

" Don't lie, Arthur," he cautioned. " It can do no pos- 
sible good. After you threatened me with that gun, in case 
I wouldn't help you — " 

" After I — what? " 

"You deny having threatened me?" demanded Slayton 
truculently. 

"It's a lie I I never!" 

"You see, gentlemen," said the cashier, turning to the 
others, " we can't get anywhere with this fellow. He's more 
devious than an ed. He — " 

" A rotten lie ! I never so much as thought of threaten- 



INQUISITION 107 

ing you 1 " exclaimed Arthur, stung into action by the lash 
of the false accusation. " You know it's a lie, tool I only 
said Fd kill myself if you didn't help me out, and you 
promised — ** 

" Order ! " cried, the coroner. *' This is no debating so- 
ciety. It's obvious you had a gun, anyhow. Now, where 
is it? What have you done with it? " 

'*/f^jgot itl" 

And Arthur jabbed an angry finger at the smiling cashier. 

" He took it away from me. Told me not to be a damned 
fool, and all that. Put it in his desk drawer, and — ^" 

"Nothing of the kind, gentlemen," affirmed Slayton. 
" When he left me he took it along. It's his word against 
mine. Choose for yourself. He came to me, confessed 
his theft, menaced me, and then when I had pacified him, 
took himself off with the gun in his overcoat pocket — the 
right-hand pocket. I remember seeing him slip it in there." 

A moment's silence, while Arthur, gasping with rage, 
could find no word to lay his tongue to. Then subtly a 
change of expression came across his features. His eyes 
narrowed slightly, his mouth hardened, and a dangerous glit- 
ter came into his pupils. 

" What — for God's sake, what are you people trying to 
put over on me, anyhow ? " he managed to exclaim huskily. 

For the first time now some glimmer of suspicion had be- 
gun to dawn in his ingenuous mind of the abysses, the yawn- 
ing pits and snares laid ready for his feet. 

" What are you driving at, anyhow? " he demanded again. 
" You — you aren't trying to — make out that — I — " 

" Driving at ? " smiled Roadstrand, dangerously suave all 
of a sudden. *' Why, nothing except the truth. That's all 
we're striving for — to elucidate the truth from all this mass 
of confusing details. The truth, nothing less and nothing 
more. You surely can't take exception to that, can you ? " 

Speaking, he had fixed his eyes keenly on the boy's coat. 



io8 



THE ALIBI 



He seemed to be studying the buttons there. A peculiar 
look came into his eyes. 

**Just as I thought," he muttered. "Precisely as I 
thought 1 *' 

Arthur, too confused to answer anything, too violently 
shaken by the new and horrible suspicions that now, like 
sudden tempests, were whirling and ravening about his head, 
stood there peering at him as a trapped animal will some- 
times peer at its captor. His face twitched, especially the 
mouth ; and on his forehead a few little glistening drops of 
sweat began to appear. He put out his left hand and took 
hold of the back of the chair where Sheridan, his only friend, 
had been sitting. 

Thus for a moment silence came again upon that group 
of beings, between whom and around whom the lines of 
destiny were drawing with a savage, ever-increasing tension. 
And in that moment, through the revolving doors of the 
bank, two figures entered — entered, and came into the 
lobby; stopped there, looked about, and once again came 
forward 



CHAPTER XIII 

THE TRAP IS SPRUNG 

ONE was the Hon. Edward Bruce Chamberlain, presi- 
dent of the bank, a man of about sixty-five, gray 
and rather markedly wrinkled, yet of military bear- 
ing, keen of eye, alert of mind, confident of manner. 

The other, Enid Chamberlain, gave one an impression of 
stmshine and spring, of warmth and life and happiness, 
even on this dull, gray November morning. One could 
hardly see her clearly as yet, for the screened windows of the 
bank shut out the daylight, and the electric lights seemed 
only pale and inefiFective ; but one could see she had a little 
trim, white toque on her black hair — a toque with a single, 
slashing, crimson feather — and that her long white coat 
draped a figure of great elegance and beauty. Her eyes 
were black — or were they a dark blue with liquid depths ? 
Now, as they glanced about the lobby, they mirrored sor- 
row, pity, wonder; they seemed questing somebody they 
could not find. Plainly they asked: 

"Where is he now?" 

They could not find the one they sought, for he was facing 
three inquisitors there in the stillness of the directors' room 
— facing them with a new, strangling terror clutching at his 
soul. 

"You don't — mean to say you think — I — " he stam- 
mered half unintelligibly, his eyes, frightened and pitiful, go- 
ing from one face to another, his whole body banning to 
tremble in a racking shiver. 

109 



HO THE ALIBI 

" We don't mean to think anything but what the evidence 
points out to us," answered Roadstrand grimly. " Please 
look at this and tdl us whose it is." 

With a sudden gesture he flung the bloodstained glove 
down on the table, right in front of Arthur. 

"Well, whose is it?" 

Mansfield fixed unseeing eyes on it for a moment. They 
could not focus. Everything seemed to blur, to swim. 
Then, as out of a mist, vision returned. He perceived the 
glove. Mechanically he took it up and turned it over. At 
sight of the blood a kind of yellowish tinge spread across his 
drawn face. 

" Blood ? " he gulped. " Blood — on my — " 

" It's yours, then? You admit it? " 

Helplessly the boy peered at Roadstrand, as if not quite 
seeing him, not quite understanding. 

"Mine?" 

" Yes, yours 1 " 

" / don't know how any — blood — " 

" I'm not asking you about that blood — old Mackenzie's 
blood — " 

" Mackenzie's? On my glove? " 

" You admit it, then ? It's yours ? " 

Arthur let his head fall, and stood silent and shaking there 
before them, some measure -of realization of the truth mak- 
ing itself felt in his nimib soul. He could not yet grasp the 
total of this infamy against him; but, conscious of even a 
part, he gripped the chair ta keep himself steady ; and so, 
mute and pallid, stood there before his merciless accusers. 

" He admits it, doctor," announced Roadstrand in a pro- 
fessional voice, which showed a little exultation despite his 
efforts to render it quite neutral. '* Note that down. Ex- 
hibit A. Identity admitted before witness." 

Outside in the lobby, old Chamberlain was talking with a 
plain-clothes man. The oflicer was requesting him not to 



THE TRAP IS SPRUNG in 

hold any conversation with any of the employees until such 
time as the investigation then under way should be com- 
pleted. He pointed out the spot where Mackenzie had 
fallen ; and Chamberlain, advancing with commiseration and 
horror, peered through the grill at the patch of sawdust on 
the floor. 

Enid shuddered a bit and turned away. Her mind was on 
another topic. A line of anxiety had drawn itself between 
her straight, dark brows. Her eyes, eagerly questing, failed 
to discover what they sought. 

'* Where — where's Arthur ? " she asked frankly. " You 
don't suppose they're going to examine him, too, do you ? " 

" Everybody must be examined," answered the old man, 
smiling vaguely. "Even I must answer questions, I sup- 
pose. In an affair of this kind, a tragedy of this kind, no 
pains are too great and no sacrifices too bitter in serving the 
ends of justice. Justice is stem, Enid ; but pure and mighty. 
No innocent man need fear. Only the guilty need tremble. 
So have no uneasiness ; have no uneasiness, my dear." 

" I know, father ; but Arthur — ** 

The old man smiled again and looked down tenderly and 
wisely at the girl, so eager and warm and brave. 

" Arthur has nothing to fear," said he. ** By the way, 
where is the boy ? " 

He turned to the plain-clothes man. 

" You don't know who is being examined now, do you ? " 
he queried. 

"Search me!" answered the officer. ** They've got a 
young feller in there with 'em. He's been in there about ten 
minutes. Itll be all right if you go in, of course. They 
want you." 

Chamberlain laid a hand on the girl's arm. 

" Sit down here, Enid," he bade her, " and wait for me. 
I'll find out about Arthur. Don't be troubled, my dear. 
Everything will be all right — all right in every way 1 " 



112 THE ALIBI 

Enid, nervously twisting her long white gloves together, 
sat down in a deep leather chair in the little alcove reserved 
for women, glanced about her, bit her lip, tapped her boot 
on the carpet, and in a dozen ways showed extreme distress. 
The glances of admiration that — despite their worry — two 
or three employees could not help leveling at her, fell un- 
noticed from her shield of indiflFerence. Only one thought 
possessed her now : 

"Where is Arthur?" 

Where was Arthur, indeed? On the brink of the pit I 
On the sheer edge of the abyss that has no bottom and no 
end. There he was standing, clutching in desperation at any 
hold and finding none I 

Out of the vague and formless vapors seeming to rise 
from that depth he heard a voice speaking to him again. 
And the voice said: 

" Is that your letter-opener ? " 

He stared at a bright metal object, blinked, and made no 
answer. 

Examine that letter-opener, Mansfield," said the voice. 

It is broken, you see. The broken end was found in the 
lock of Mr. Slayton's top drawer. That was where he kept 
the combination of the safe. On the handle of this utensil 
you will observe the initials * A. M.' Kindly tell me — does 
that letter-opener belong to you?" 

Mansfield nodded. Useless now to combat that even, hor- 
rible, betraying voice. Helplessly he looked at Roadstrand, 
whose face had now also emerged from the mists. 

" Yes," he admitted in a flat tone. " It's mine. But how 
it got broken — " 

" No matter about that. Later such matters can be dis- 
cussed. It's yours; that's enough for now. Doctor, enter 
the data. Letter-opener acknowledged also before witness. 
Exhibit B. 

" And now," the coroner continued, " now finally here is a 



u 



THE TRAP IS SPRUNG 113 

button. This button was found near the body of Mac- 
kenzie. Do you recognize the button, Mansfield ? " 

He laid it on the table- close before the shivering boy. Ar- 
thur stared at it, unseeingly. 

** Oflf his sleeve," whispered Slayton, pointing. 

The doctor, rising, pulled the sleeve around into full view 
under the electric cluster ip the ceiling. 

"One button is gone, you see," the cashier remarked. 
*' And — well, you can see for yourself ; this one matches 
the other two, there." 

Unable to make any answer, on the ragged edge of col- 
lapse, Mansfield stood there, hanging on to the back of the 
chair. 

"It's yours, isn't it?" demanded Slayton with malice. 
" Maybe you can explain how it came to be found beside the 
body of the murdered man, and — " 

"Gentlemen! Gentlemen 1 What is this? For 
Heaven's sake, what does this mean ? " 

Sla)rton, half starting from his chair, faced the door, an 
oath on his pale lips. In the doorway stood President Cham- 
berlain, peering at the strange scene with eyes that, unable 
to believe their testimony, seemed to understand nothing. 

"What does this mean, gentlemen?" repeated the old 
man. 

He raised a trembling forefinger, pointing it at Mansfield. 

"What is this? What—?" 

" My dear Mr. Chamberlain ! " exclaimed the cashier, and 
flimg a protesting hand outward at him. " I beg you — " 

" You aren't accusing Arthur, are you ? " demanded the old 
gentleman, taking a step forward. " Not that ! Not that I " 

Roadstrand stood up so suddenly that his chair clattered 
over backward. 

" Mr. Chamberlain," he cried, " we are accusing nobody I 
If there is any accusation, the hard, cold facts of the case are 
leaking it ! " 



M4 THE ALIBI 

" TheyVe all lies, .lies, lies ! Foul, horrible lies I " cried 
Mansfield, turning toward Chamberlain. "They've got 
some — some kind of frame-up on me here I " 

His voice rose wild and trembling; his hand vibrated at 
the table. 

" Look a' that there, will you ? They say I broke into 
Slayton's desk with that letter-opener and took the cipher 
of the combination 1 They say I shot Mackenzie — " 

" Shot Mackenzie I " cried Chamberlain. '' Yout Father 
above 1 You — shot — " 

" They say so I They — " 

"The facts say sol" interposed the doctor, also rising, 
with indignation. 

" Damn the facts I " cried the boy in a wild outburst of 
passion. " I know what I know ! I never was in this bank 
last night I ^I went home to my room — ^" 

" After threatening to kill me in my house if I didn't give 
him money to make good hi# thefts 1 " shouted the cashier, 
in a white heat. 

Arthur I You — you've been stealing?" 
Yes, by Godl I havel But murdering? No, no, no! 
But they're trying to put it over on me, just the same. 
They've got one of my gloves and put blood on it, and they've 
put a button off my coat beside the body, and — and now 
they're claiming — ^" 

''Arthur!" 

At the girl's cry of anguish everybody faced the door. 
They caught a glimpse of a pale, wild face, of outstretched 
hands, of eyes that stared in terror. Then the old man 
whirled toward his daughter, arms outspread, to shut away 
the sight of that terrible room from her. 

" No, no, Enid 1 " he cried. " You mustn't come in here I 
You mustn't — ^" 

" Arthur I Arthur I What are they doing to you ? Oh, 
what are they doing ? " 






THE TRAP IS SPRUNG 11-5 



"Enid I You believe me, anyhow, don't you? As God 
lives, I never killed Mackenzie 1 " 

"Kniedhim? KiUed him? They say you— ?" 

"No, no! No, no!'' 

And the old man, seizing his daughter by the wrists, held 
her back, as she would have run to Arthur with open arms 
of trust and comfort. 

" None of that now, Enid ! No scene here 1 " 

He forced the girl back, away, out of the room. The door 
closed behind them both. From without came sounds of 
anguished sobbing. 

Three or four men started toward Chamberlain and Enid. 
Pale with rage and resentment, Sheridan ran to the old man. 

" Of all the rotten frame-ups ever spawned in Hell," he 
cried, " this is the — " 

Chamberlain raised a trembling hand in protest. 

" Water, quick 1 " he entreated. " I think Enid's going to 
faint I " 

Inside the room, sudden battle had flashed into fire. Now 
Arthur was smashing into all three men. 

" Go on ! Arrest me ! " he shouted. " You, Slayton, you 
sanctimonious hypocrite, perjure your damned soul! But 
ni give you something to remember first ! " 

His fist cracked like a pistol-shot on Slayton's lantern jaw. 
The murderer, cursing, plunged headlong across the table, 
strewing the exhibits right and left. 

" Come on, you ! " defied Arthur, the lust of battle in his 
blue eyes, which now had cleared again. " You've got me 
framed up, all right — but I'll land a few good wallops be- 
fore you get me ! " 

Roadstrand lunged at him just as the doctor closed in from 
behind. Arthur parried the blow and drove home hard with 
his left. Before he could swing on the doctor, that wiry 
person had flung an arm about his neck, unbalancing him and 
dragging him down. 



ii6 



THE ALIBI 



Unmindful of discipline, bookkeepers, clerks and re- 
porters came crowding. In the door appeared a policeman, 
stick in hand. 

Holding his dazed head, which rang and echoed with 
Arthur's blow, Roadstrand shouted: 

"Officer! Your duty I" 

The stick, descending, crashed a shower of sparks through 
Arthur's brain. All strength abandoned his tense body. 
His head drooped forward; his arms relaxed; his legs, 
doubling beneath him, let him slip down, down to the carpet 
of the disordered room. 

Then consciousness lapsed. Insensibility drew the mercy 
of its pall across his agony. 

The trap so cleverly, so malevolently set by Walter Haynes 
Slayton, cashier, had sprung at last. 

And in its jaws — mangled, helpless, doomed — lay Ar- 
thur Mansfield 



CHAPTER XIV 

FAITH SUBLIME, AND A LETTER 

ONLY three persons in a whole world of accusers 
arose to defend Arthur Mansfield. One was the 
boy's mother; one, ex-teller Sheridan of the bank; 
the third, Enid Chamberlain. 

Shall we stay, a while, to see how she was bearing all 
her grievous burdens and to learn the depth and breadth 
of her unshakable faith? To know how she was strug- 
gling, boldly championing him despite the torrent of preju- 
dice and falsehood now sweeping him away to death? 

Enid's bedchamber fronted the whole western sweep of 
sky above the Hudson and the Palisades. A wide bay- 
window, glazed with magnificent curved panes, jutted to- 
ward Riverside Drive; and nearly all day long, when any 
sun at all blessed the world, stmshine gladdened the soft- 
carpeted, vaguely perfumed, charmingly furnished room 
of the old banker's daughter. 

To-day, however, no sun was shining through the broad 
and polished panes. None warmed the girl's sad heart. 
Day was verging toward its close ; and as it died, the glow 
on the ceiling grew ruddier, from the hickory coals in the 
fireplace at one side of the room. 

In a low wicker chair Enid was sitting in the sweep of 
the window, drooping like a broken flower. One arm, bare 
to the elbow in the short sleeve of her loose, silk-embroid- 
ered Chinese house-gown, had fallen nervelessly over the 
side of the chair ; and from her relaxed hand a photograph 
had dropped to the floor. Half a dozen letters lay in her 

"7 



ii8 THE ALIBI 

lap. From one, a faded jonquil peeped out. What had 
its pressed and faded petals to tell her, now? Everything? 
Or — nothing? 

Pale and with reddened eyes, Enid gazed unseeingly 
through the window. Her busy little Sevres clock chimed 
four silver notes, but she did not raise her head. For an 
hour she had been sitting there, indifferent to the moving 
panorama of the driveway traffic, unseeing the wide gray 
reaches of the river, beholding not the buttressed shoulders 
of the Palisades. 

There in that window where only three nights before she 
had waved her hand at Arthur Mansfield in affectionate 
au revoir — that very window where she best loved to sit 
and read his letters, or write to him, or dream (as girls will 
dream) of " sometime," now she was trying to think and 
fight her way through the terror that had suddenly en- 
meshed her. As a wounded animal will creep to some fa- 
miliar lair to lick its wounds and strive for life — or die, 
if die it must — so Enid had found no other place in the big 
mansion that seemed home, now, save this one chair in 
this one window. 

Pondering — not very coherently — she had through 
blurring tears watched the dull, glowering haze of light 
that marked the sun's place as it sagged lower, ever lower 
down the cloudy, snow-threatening November sky — down 
over the leaden river toward the dun silhouette of the 
wooded heights beyond. 

At one blow, Enid Chamberlain's happiness and all her 
joy of life had been struck down and shattered in the dust. 
An immense and formless cloud, cold, dour and forbidding, 
had in a second of time eclipsed the sunshine of her soul. 
Now, though the girl could hardly analyze it, she seemed 
herself to have become part of the wintry landscape. Her 
June had altered swiftly to November. In the midst 
of dreams of sun and field and flower, of green, wav- 



FAITH SUBLIME, AND A LETTER 119 

ing grasses, of blue sky and song of birds, she had awak- 
ened to the shivering reality of "biting wind, and snow, 
and rain," of fear, of horror. The laughter on her lips 
had been transmuted to a cry of pain. The light in her 
dark eyes had by some cruel magic been congealed to tears. 

Enid pressed a strong, slim hand against her bosom, and 
shuddering bowed her head. You could see, now, how very 
pale she had grown. All the roses in her cheeks had died 
and vanished. In her white face her eyes now looked un- 
naturally dark, and her ripe lips showed vivid, passionate 
and full. 

The masses of her splendid hair had all fallen down, 
loose and uncared-for, over her shoulders and the back 
of the wicker chair. In the warm little valley just at the 
base of her throat, you could see the pulsing of her heart — 
too fast, too fevered, too eloquent of pain. 

Thus the girl sat there, grieving, now that the first gush 
of her anger, the first shock of her emotion had somewhat 
subsided. And so the dull blur of the sun slid still a little 
lower down the leaden arches of the sky; and into that 
sweet room the twilight pressed, dimming every outline, 
softening every contour. Out from the comers of this 
sheltered place that breathed the most intimate spirit of the 
feminine, shadows crept thicker and thicker still. Lights 
began to spangle the Drive, the misty stretches of the Hud- 
son, and far across it, the Jersey shore. 

Still Enid sat there with those letters and that dead jon- 
quil in her lap, seeing nothing — nothing but a steel cage 
in the black, forbidding, horrible infamy of the Tombs. 

She shuddered at realization of even a little of what that 
meant — the Tombs! Arthur was in the Tombs 1 Again 
that cry welled up in her ; it came to utterance as a whisper. 



now 



O Arthur! Arthur! What are they doing to you?" 
Thank God for one thing, at least, one little respite amid 



I20 THE ALIBI 

all this torment I There in the Tombs he could be safe 
from prying interviews, from raw sensationalism, from the 
maddening goads of publicity. True, the press could con- 
tinue to crucify him, but he was shielded from the ubiquity 
of the reporter and the camera-ghoul. Enid was thankful 
for this, and for the shelter of her room. Here in this 
wicker chair, in the bay-window, she too could be free a 
little while from the torment and the horror of that perse- 
cution. 

Their grief and agony, she reflected with a peculiar bitter- 
ness, had served no purpose as a shield to keep them from 
the morbid, prying eyes of the sensation-seekers. No, it 
had all been quite the reverse. That very anguish, his cry 
of " Innocent ! " and her loyal trust that had re-echoed it, 
had all poured oil on the flames of the indecent flres of 
sensation. 

The girl writhed inwardly with hate and loathing of the 
yellow press; with shame, with hatred of such outrages. 
A kind of desperate anger possessed her at thought that 
Arthur and she had been and still must be mangled to make 
a New York holiday. She pressed her hands to her eyes 
as though to shut out the horrible papers with their violent 
headlines, their columns of lies, misstatements, innuendoes, 
diagrams, illustrations, analyses. She seemed still to hear 
the snapping of cameras at her father's door, as she had 
tried to leave the house, that morning. How shameful and 
horrible a thing it was that New York's jaded palate must 
be stimulated by such vicious and debasing methods I 

Yellow journalism had, indeed, fairly taken the bit in its 
teeth and bolted. Romance, robbery and murder had 
woven a triple skein of excitement. " Heart-interest " had 
mingled with bloodshed and loot. Newspaperdom, gloat- 
ing, had dipped its pen in red ink, and scrawled frantically. 
Raw, crude, blatant, some sheets had run wholly amuck. 
An orgy of journalistic viciousness had swept the city. 



FAITH SUBLIME, AND A LETTER 121 

Obscure, the night before, Arthur Mansfield in an hour 
had become the most talked-of man in the city, and Enid 
had been forced to share with him every step of his Cal- 
vary. As a bank-clerk, quietly performing his duties, Ar- 
thur had possessed no news-value whatever. As a self- 
admitted thief who would confess neither his motives nor a 
vastly larger theft; as an accused murderer who had as- 
saulted three men and been quelled only by police clubs; 
and — above all — as a social intimate of the powerful and 
prominent Chamberlain family, his value in the way of a 
" feature " had become incalculable. There was even some 
betting on the outcome of the impending battle. Thus the 
Mackenzie murder case assumed almost the dignity of a 
sporting event in New York City. The metropolis breathed 
deep, and prepared itself for the spectacle. 

The People of the State of New York, versus Arthur 
Mansfield I Rare title to how rare a play I 

Fate could not have thrown a more juicy morsel for the 
space-writers and scandal-mongers to roll under their 
tongues, than the quasi engagement of Enid and Arthur. 
In various phases the crimes and the romance were capable 
of infinite enlargement, endless speculation. Enid, pros- 
trated there in her darkening bedchamber, with the poor 
relics of happier days lying in her lap, felt hot tears seep 
through her fingers at thought of all that had been, all that 
now was, all that yet must be. 

In her greater suffering over Arthur's accusation of mur- 
der — an accusation she never for one second would admit 
as just — she forgot his real crime, the theft of the twelve 
hundred and fifty dollars. That matter had become dead- 
ened, nullified, overlaid by the other and vaster woe. Why 
had he stolen ? She did not know. She doubted even that 
he had. Though he admitted it, this must be only in order 
nobly to cover some defenseless head. But after all, that 
mattered not. Nothing mattered save that they were 



122 THE ALIBI 

parted, and that upon her boy now rested the brand of 
Cain. 

Enid raised the letters to her lips, kissed them and talked 
to them„ whispering there in the dusk, cherishing them to 
her breast, giving her soul to him who now sat alone under 
the shadow of death in the steel cell. 

She realized that in all probability the end of everything 
for them had come. Perhaps the knell had sounded for all 
their hopes and dreams and wonderings of " sweet together- 
ness." Innocent though Arthur were, she felt instinctively 
he might not be able to free himself from the toils. A cer- 
tain savagery on the part of press and public had already, 
in the first two days of the case, poisoned the world against 
him. What jury could be fair, what judge impartial now? 
She knew that Arthur's fight — brutally exaggerated by the 
press into a murderous assault on the coroner, the doctor 
and his own " benefactor " and " best friend " — had greatly 
injured him. She knew the public was beginning to con- 
sider him a dangerous wild beast of a man, whom society in 
its own behalf would do well to eliminate. 

Her boy, gentle, brave and kind, a murderer? Impossi- 
ble! Womanly instinct told her it was but a scurvy jest 
of fate that he, so big, clean, strong, loyal, had been swept, 
like a leaf before a gale, to infamy. 

And yet, there he now stood before the hateful eyes of 
the world, pilloried on that bad eminence, already over- 
whelmingly condemned by public opinion, already facing the 
little door, the narrow door, that leads nowhere save to 
death. 

Enid shuddered, groaning. 

" No, no, no I " she whispered. " Not that I Not that 1 " 

She heard voices in the hall below. 

".Can that be father?" 

Gathering the letters and the faded flowers up in her 
silk kimono, she rose from the low wicker chair and looked 



FAITH SUBLIME, AND A LETTER 123 

out of the window. A few flakes of snow had begun to 
fall, shimmering about the lights of the big limousine now 
just growling away from the curb. 

"Thank Heaven he's here, at last!" she exclaimed. 
"He's got news — he must have news of Arthur I" 

In her haste, she spilled letters, dead blossoms and all 
out on her beautiful and immaculate bed, and ran to the 
door, through it, down the hallway to the big oak stairs. 

" Father ! Is that you ? '* she called, eagerly. 

" Coming ! Coming, Enid I " Chamberlain's voice re- 
plied, from below. She heard him say something to the 
butler. Then his boots sounded on the parquetry, and 
now she saw him, under the glow of the alabaster bowl 
that hung inverted in the hallway. 

"Any news, daddy?" she demanded, her fingers grip- 
ping together till her rings ridged the white flesh. Her 
eyes now seemed quite black, with glints of light from the 
beautiful and costly lamp of translucent, sculptured stone. 

" Hello, Enid ! " And he started up the stairs, toward 
her. " How's the headache ? Better ? " 

"Good news? Is it good news, father?" 

His heart went out to her in pity and love. The blow 
of this crime, the horrible campaign of sensationalism it had 
engendered, the shattering of Enid's happiness, had stag- 
gered him. And yet he felt that truth was truth, and that 
to face it honestly with her was best. 

" Don't ask me that, dear," b^ged he. 

"Why not? Oh, why not?" 

He paused a moment on the landing, and looked up at 
his daughter, his only child, with eyes of infinite sadness, 
compassion, wisdom. 

" Don't ask me ! " he repeated, in a low voice. 

" Oh, but it is good, isn't it ? " she cried, running down 
the stairs to him. " It is, it is, it is! I know it is I It 
must be — it's ggt to be — it shall be — I " 



124 



THE ALIBI 



She flung her arms about his neck and hugged him tight. 

" Daddy mine I Tell me it's good, good news I " 

" Enid," answered the old man, unloosening her clinging 
hands with gentle firmness, " we can't talk this over, here 
and now, in this manner. I've just come from talking with 
H;llis & Ballantyne. I've got a great deal to tell you, a very 
great deal, indeed, and you must listen carefully. We must 
see where we stand and what's to be done. We're facing 
a sad problem, my girl — a sad, heavy problem. Suppose 
we go to your room, for a little heart-to-heart? Ever since 
God wanted your mother so much that He couldn't let me 
keep her any longer, that room has been more home to you 
than any other in this great, big, empty mockery of a place. 
Let's go up to your room and talk it all over, and see where 
we stand and what's right and what's wrong, and what must 
be done and what we're going to do. Come, Enid I " 

The old man drew her head to his heart, a moment, and 
kissed her unbound hair. 

" Come I " he whispered. 

His arm encircled her. In silence, together, father and 
daughter went on up the broad staircase under the alabas- 
ter glow. 



CHAPTER XV 

FAITH SUBLIME 

SADLY they climbed the stairs. The old banker's 
step lagged wearily. His shoulders drooped into 
an unaccustomed curve. In the two days since the 
murder, ten years seemed to have weighted him with the 
lead of a burden that never can grow lighter — old age. 
His eyes showed dull and lifeless; and under them the 
loose skin was pouched as never before. For the first time 
in his active, vigorous life, Edward Bruce Chamberlain 
looked his years. 

But the merciful twilight of the upper hall and of Enid's 
room soon hid all this, even as it concealed the girl's pale 
cheeks and wistful eyes of pain. At the door, Chamber- 
lain's hand sought the electric button, but hesitated and fell 
again. Repellant, now, was the idea of light. Save for 
the vague red warmth upon the ceiling, cast by the hard- 
wood coals in the fireplace, and the pale reflection .of a 
street-lamp through the broad windows, the room lay in 
shadow. That shadow soothed and comforted the man. 
After the day of pitiless searchings and questionings, after 
the inquisitions and the staring eyes of publicity, the sweet 
warm dusk of this upper room fell like balm upon his 
wounds. 

Enid, released from his encircling arm, turned to him 
and laid both hands upon his shoulders and peered into his 
eyes, where the firelight pointed itself in little gleaming 
dots. Her face showed as a dim white blur in the dusk. 
For a moment of firelit silence, father and daughter faced 
each other there. 



126 THE ALIBI 



U 

« 



"Daddy — good news, or none I" she whispered, plead- 
ingly. " Oh, it must be good I It shall be ! " 

" Sit down over there, Enid," he bade her, loosening her 
hands. With a sudden impulse of father-love he drew her 
to his arms again, and kissed her forehead, patting her 
shoulder as though she had been a child. 

" Horrible aflFair I " he suddenly exclaimed. " Wreckage 
of everything! And the infernal publicity and sensation- 
alism — brutal, hideous I " 

"Nothing matters, father," she answered, "so long as 
Arthur is innocent." 

Sit down, and listen," he said, abruptly, releasing her. 

But first, promise me something ! " 

"What is it?" 
Promise me you're going to be my own brave, strong, 
sensible girl, through all the inevitable grief and strain of 
this terrible affair — through everything, even to the very 
end. Promise me that! " 

" I promise I " 

" Promise me you're going to act in every way as your 
mother would have acted — wisely, rationally, nobly, come 
what may. Do you promise that, too ? " 

" Yes ! But tell me, why are you asking? Do you mean 
that he — that Arthur — ? " 

She hesitated, a chill dread in her heart. Her eyes 
peered eagerly at the old man's face. She gripped his 
right hand in both of hers. 

Father I You don't mean — ? " 

Now, now, Enid, remember your promise! You 
mustn't get excited and you mustn't jump at conclusions. 
You must control yourself, my girl. You must listen to 
all I have to say, judge reasonably, accept evidence like a 
rational being, form just conclusions and stick to them — 
in a word, be the only kind of girl that Edward Chamber- 
lain could possibly have for his daughter 1 



n 
** 



91 



FAITH SUBLIME 127 

Enid sighed, brokenly. 

" I'll — I'll do everything you say, father," she answered. 
" If you only — tell me — " 

" I'll tell you everything. But you must sit down, first, 
and be quite calm and reasonable. At a time like this, my 
dear, we must put sentiment aside and be guided by intelli- 
gence. We must view matters dispassionately, not allow 
personal feelings to influence our judgments, and — " 

" I know, father, but Arthur — " 

"Arthur is a man like other men, my dear. He must 
stand or fall by the same laws with all others. He must be 
judged by the same standards and measured by the same — '* 

"Father! What are you coming at?" she cried, sud- 
denly. " What are you leading up to? This kind of pre- 
lude doesn't lead to a verdict of * Innocent ! ' It leads to 
* Guilty I ' Well, if you think he's guilty, tell me so at 
once I Speak it right out — * Guilty I ' But don't try to 
gloss it, and conceal it and work up to it as though I were a 
child! Tell me, tell me, do you think — he — ?" 

Chamberlain nodded, firmly. 

"Yes, Enid, I do!" he answered. "If you insist on 
asking me, in plain words, whether I think Arthur is guilty, 
I must answer in the affirmative. And I am voicing the 
opinion of Hillis & Ballantyne, in saying so. For three 
hours, to-day, they — probably the best criminal lawyers in 
the country, certainly the best in New York — went over 
all the available evidence, with me. And at the end of 
that time — " 

Enid released her hold on the banker's hand, turned and 
walked to her low chair, sank into it and let her face fall 
into the warm hollow of her elbow, along the broad arm of 
the chair. Very much a woman, she began to cry. 

" I don't care, I don't care 1 " she sobbed. " I don't be- 
lieve it, and it isn't sol Arthur didn't do it, because — 
because he couldn't — he wouldn't — never, never, never I " 



128 THE ALIBI 

" Enid, you promised — " 

"What do I care about your criminal lawyers or 
your — ?" 

" My girl, my girl I Listen to me ! You gave me your 
word you'd be reasonable and weigh the evidence I " 

He walked to her, stroked her hair soothingly, and patted 
her beautiful, shapely head. 

" My dear ! " he protested. " This is no way to keep 
your promise or to get at the truth. This is doing pre- 
cisely what you said you wouldn't do! Now, now, calm 
yourself, I beg you. Let us approach this thing rationally, 
see where we stand, and examine the factors — " 

" I don't care for your factors or your evidence, either ! " 
she exclaimed passionately. "You may know all about 
those and everjrthing else in the world, but I — / know 
Arthur!" 

She raised her head, now, and looked at her father with 
tear-wet eyes that gleamed in the firelight. 

"Arthur — my Arthur — couldn't have done those 
things ! " she cried, splendidly, defiantly, bravely. " Im- 
possible! A thousand times, impossible! If the whole 
world should rise up and point at him and charge him with 
that crime, I wouldn't care! If all the evidence under the 
sun were heaped against him, it would mean nothing to me ! 
I know, I know, I know he's innocent 1 " 

Chamberlain made a despairing gesture with both arms, 
and let them fall at his sides, hopelessly. 

" My dear," he protested, " if you adopt that attitude, of 
course there's no use in my talking to you. If you abandon 
your promises, and raise the flag of absolute defiance to all 
the standards of proof as universally recognized, naturally 
there can be no benefit in my expounding this matter to 
you. It's your prerogative to adopt any arbitrary opinion 
you may choose, and hold to it, and close your ears to rea- 
son. But I must tell you, Enid, you're not serving Arthur 



FAITH SUBLIME 129 

by any such tactics. You're pnly injuring him and your- 
self. I do sincerely beg of you, Enid, to hear the case dis- 
passionately, and try, in so far as your heart will let you, 
to judge it on its own merits." 

" You mean you want me to agree with you and those 
lawyers, whose whole stock in trade is lies, deception and 
fraud ? To say he's guilty, when I know he's notf To — " 

" Only to listen to the facts, Enid, my girl. Only that, 
nothing more." 

" Facts all distorted so as to prove him guilty ! " 

" No, my dear. Only plain, irrefutable realities that can't 
be overlooked, evaded or misinterpreted. Much as this 
blow has wounded me, much as I have liked Arthur, and 
hoped for his future and built upon his happiness and yours 
in every way, nevertheless, I have used my reasoning facul- 
ties. I have faced truths, and listened to deductions, and 
even formed my own. I have accepted grief, Enid, and 
pain — more than you know, since it involves you, too»— 
and made up my mind to let justice work itself out, unim- 
peded. And — " 

The girl faced him, suddenly. 

" You mean, even if he were guilty, you'd let them kill 
him?" 

" I'd let justice take its course, Enid. Wouldn't you ? " 

" But he isn't I He isn't, and I know it I " she reiterated, 
with sovereign feminine evasion. " And I don't care what 
they say, I never will believe it I Never ! " 

"You don't even want to know the evidence?" 

" It means nothing to me I " 

"Even when they've found the very pistol that killed 
poor old Mackenzie? Even when they've recovered the 
bullet, and found it fits the gun? Even when that gun 



is—" 



« 



Not his I Not his, father I Not his!" 
She flung out her hand in passionate denial. 



130 THE ALIBI 

"Not his!'' 

She was not weeping, now. The fighting instinct that 
had made her father a power in the land, the instinct that 
had lived through all the race of Chamberlains, had blazed 
out, at last, in Enid. The man she loved was being meshed 
in webs of trickery and lies, she knew. Horrible conspira- 
cies were being woven round him. She felt the impulse 
to rise up and shout his innocence to all the winds ; to run 
to him, defend him with her body and her blood, free him, 
win him back to good repute and happiness and joy once 
more. 

"Not his, father! Not his!" 

Chamberlain smiled very sadly, and nodded that massive 
head of his, with its mane of white hair. 

" Yes, my dear, but it is his ! " he answered, in a deep 
and quiet voice. " It was found last night behind some 
ash-barrels in the basement of the bank, where he evidently 
threw it in his haste and panic. He has acknowledged it 
as his. That fact, joined with the others, has completed 
the circle of proof. There exists no doubt, now, as to the 
indictment. It cannot be for less than — less than — '* 

"Murder?" She spoke the word in a quivering whis- 
per of horror. " Murder? " 

" Yes, Enid." 

"Arthur — indicted for — murder? My Arthur a mur- 
derer f" 

" Yes." 

" But — he didn't do it ! He never did it, father ! Some- 
body else did it, and — laid it oflF on him! Somebody — " 

" Nobody else could have done it, my girl. In no possi- 
ble way could anybody have done all the various things 
and left all the different trails which converge — every last 
one of them — to one focal point, where Arthur stands! 
We have motive, we have ability, we have means, we have 
results, we have proofs. In my earlier days, Enid, I stud- 



FAITH SUBLIME 131 

led rather deeply in law, and though I never was admitted 
to the bar, I am not unversed in its history and practise. 
I know, if I know anything, that not a jury could be im- 
paneled in this whole country that, on the evidence alone 
which has so far come out, wouldn't convict I 

" I don't tell you this to wound you, grieve you or crush 
you, Enid. God forbid, my darling I You know I'd lay 
down my life for you in a second, if I could save your hap- 
piness. But, my girl, you're now facing a situation where 
neither your father nor any other man, nor any power on 
earth, can lighten the blow or avert the shock. You've 
pinned your faith and given your love to a man, outwardly 
noble, strong and good, but inwardly rotten. A man who 
has not only confessed to having robbed the bank of more 
than a thousand dollars — " 

" Yes, yes, I know that I But I know he didn't take it for 
himself. There was some reason, some big, fine motive — " 

" My child, emotion blinds you I You are not reason- 
able, to-night. Suppose we postpone this till to-morrow? 
Sleep on it, if you can, and with the morning light, perhaps 
you may be calmer and more amenable to truth. This trag- 
edy has disturbed your just perspective, blunted your judg- 
ments and troubled your sense bf right and wrong. I 
suggest that we wait until morning for the continuation of 
this talk?" 

"No, father. No, not that. You're mistaken. I'm 
quite calm — or if not, I will be. You see — I couldn't 
possibly wait, now, to hear it all. You've told me part. I 
don't believe it, anyhow, but I know what they're saying. 
Well, tell me ever)rthing. Everything, father. Don't keep 
anything back, now I " 

"And when you have it all, Enid, and tmderstand the 
perfectly conclusive nature of the evidence, you must ad- 
mit the truth. Mr. Slayton's desk, from which the safe- 
combination was stolen, was opened by Arthur's own paper- 



132 THE ALIBI 

cutter. One of Arthur's gloves was found in the bank 
cellar, with blood-marks on the fingers — marks that cor- 
responded to others on old Mackenzie's breast. The other 
glove was burned in the furnace ; only the metal snaps were 
discovered. Bits of the paper were found, too, on which 
the combination had been written. Arthur must have 
dropped them, when he burned — " 

" Father ! You're assuming everything and proving noth- 
ing I" 

" On the contrary, Enid, I'm stating facts proved as cer- 
tainly as signs of Holy Writ. I'm giving you what Hillis 
& Ballantyne have given me — '* 

" They're prejudiced, just as you are! " 

"I, prejudiced? When I'm spending a lot of money to 
see if some loophole doesn't exist to free that boy? Good 
God, Enid ! Prejudiced ? " 

*• I don't care, father, I know it's all, all a horrible, brutal, 
ghastly mistake ! He didn't do it — he couldn't have ! " 

" Perhaps you'll deny that when he was questioned he 
turned on Mr. Sla)rton like a wild beast, and would have 
certainly assassinated him right there in the directors' room 
of the bank, if the coroner and the doctor hadn't inter- 
posed? Perhaps you'll deny that he had to be knocked in- 
sensible by a police club, and be rather badly cut up, before 
he could be arrested at all? Perhaps you'll claim actions 
like those are the actions of an innocent man ? " 

Enid shuddered at thought of that brutality. Despite 
herself, she thrilled with pride at thought of that battle 
royal. Arthur, unjustly accused, had fought! He had re- 
sisted, at any rate. He had not yielded, meekly; he had 
not begged and supplicated. No, right manfully he had 
struck out — and only force had conquered him. 

He's innocent, and he's a man!" the girl exclaimed. 

Whatever they say, whatever they do, I trust him. And 
I love him, too, and nobody in the world shall ever take 






FAITH SUBLIME 133 

that away from me I No, not Slayton, nor lawyers, nor 
coroners, nor doctors ; not jurymen or judges ; not jailers or 
executioners; nobody shall! Nobody in this whole wide 
world — not even you ! " 

The banker shrugged his shoulders, in despair. 

" Enid," said he quite slowly, " I fear we shan't get any- 
where, just now, even if we discuss this matter all night 
long. You view Arthur as a hero and a martyr, though 
Heaven alone knows how you can idealize crime to that 
extent The world views him as a criminal of rather un- 
usually dangerous tendencies, because endowed with more 
than usual intelligence. No doubt the law will deal se- 
verely with him. You and I and all of us have got to suflFer 
much galling publicity. The bank will suffer. We'll all 
suffer. Poor old Mackenzie, alone, won't have to. His 
brother has arrived and will take care of his remains; the 
bank will pay for everything. In some ways, the good old 
chap is to be envied. I'm sure Arthur might well envy him, 
at least. He might well envy him, indeed ! " 

"Arthur will yet go free, and we'll be married some- 
time!" 

"Eh?" 

" I wasn't quite sure I loved him, before. Now — I 
know it ! " 

" You mean to say you're going to cling to that — 
that—?" 

" Father ! " 

" You're going to — keep up — ? " 

" I'm going to stand by, that's all. Of course you know 
I've written him, already, and sent some things. Well, 
every day I'm going to do that. And everything that money 
can do in the way of lawyers, shall be done." 
By you, Enid?" 

I've got my own money, haven't I ? " 
But, my girl, thmk of the publicity ! You'd far better 



it 
tt 



134 THE ALIBI 

take a trip to Palm Beach, or the Riviera, or — or anywhere, 
till — " 

Enid laughed, for the first time since the murder. 

" I'm your daughter ! " said she. " Remember, Fm the 
daughter of Edward Bruce Oiamberlain! And you talk 
to me about being afraid of publicity? You talk to nte 
about running away, in a pinch, when the man I love 
needs me?" 

In sudden shame, the banker dropped his head. 

"Enid, forgive me I" he whispered, reaching out and 
taking her slim, strong hand in his wrinkled, corded one. 
"My daughter — yes, you're my daughter, all right. I 
see that now, plainly enough. You are the daughter of 
Old Oiamberlain — thank God the metal still rings 
true ! " 

She rose and threw her arms about his neck and kissed 
him, fervently. 

" My daddy ! " 

"Enid?" 

"He is innocent, isn't he? He is, he is, he isf" 

"God knows. Faith like yours could move moun- 
tains ! " 

" Mountains ? Worlds ! Universes ! It shall move 
everything I Arthur shall be vindicated ; he shall go free I " 

Tears started hotly in the old man's dimming eyes. 

" Let me go now, Enid," he begged, gently pushing her 
away. " To-morrow, when we both have slept on this sad 
problem, we may have more and clearer light. But for 
now — good-bye." 

Good night, father. Don't condemn me for my faith ! " 
Condemn you? God forbid I Mistaken though it be, 
I love you for it! Love you for it, Enid, even though I 
can't share it. Even though my' analysis can't answer ' In- 
nocent I ' " 






FAITH SUBLIME 135 

"Don't analyze, father. Only have faith! Only trust 
my boy. If you knew him as I know him, you'd trust him 
just the same as I dol " 

Chamberlain made no answer. Silence fell between 
them. He took the girl's eager face in both his hands, 
looked for a long minute into her dark eyes, vaguely seen 
in the firelight, and sighed. Tears dimmed his vision. 

" Your mother had eyes like yours, Enid," he said very 
slowly, very gently, "and faith like yours, too. Once I 
gave her cause to test that faith — and it held true. Maybe 
your faith may yet be justified; God knows. It doesn't 
seem possible, Enid. Too many lines of evidence converge 
on Arthur, to make it seem possible; but still, it may be. 
I hope so — oh, you can't know the fervor of that hope, 
for your sake and for his ! So perfect and sublime a trust 
deserves to live. God grant it may not suffer disillusion 1 " 

He kissed her forehead and her hair, and then her eyes — 
those eyes where he still seemed to see the spirit of the 
woman dead and gone away forever from his love. 

" Good night, Enid, and God keep you 1 " he whispered 
brokenly. 

Then he left her there, silently, in the warm sweetness of 
her firelit room. 

She turned to her broad window, where now the thick- 
ening snow fingered silently against the panes, ghost-white 
and swirling like shrouds of spirits driven by the wind. 
She laid her arms along the window-sash and stood there 
peering out into the moving whiteness of the night. 

" Thicker than snowflakes the lies are drifting, swirling, 
falling on my boy," she murmured. " Lies, lies, lies ! But 
the sun of truth will shine, sometime, and melt them all 
away. Love will banish them — justice shall be done — 

*' Love and faith, if they're only big enough and strong 
and pure and true enough, can work miracles, can move 



136 THE ALIBI 

mountains. Can't they set my Arthur free and give him 
back to me again ?*' 



At the same hour, had you peered into a certain sted 
cagtf in the dismal recesses of the bastile rightly named 
*' the Tombs *' you would have seen Arthur Mansfield, sit- 
ting in an attitude of imspeakable despair on his hard btmk. 
Silent, motionless, atone he sat there, shoulders bowed, 
head dnx>ping, eyes fixed upon the dirty cement floor. 
Above bis head a raw incandescent, slightly swaying, threw 
harsh lights and shadows over his wavy hair, hiis broad fore- 
head — cruelly cut and bruised on the right temple — his 
unshaven cheeks, now stmken with grief, ai^ger, and the 
fever of his violent emotions. 

His blue eyes had grown dull and lifeless. From his 
face the fresh, healthy color had departed. Nerveless, his 
hands hung over the knees of his torn and wrinkled trou- 
sers. Less than eight-and- forty hours* experience of the 
majesty and dignity of the Law had altered the boy almost 
beyond recognition. 

Flowers somewhat tempered the air of the cell with their 
sweet breath. A little photc^p^ph of Enid all in white — 
a breezy, woodsy, camping-out picture, reminiscent of one 
of their happy times together — stood on the bare board 
shelf in the comer near the crumpled letter that had brotigfat 
it to him — the letter she had ^Titten with tears as bitter a$ 
his tears in reading it; the oft-read letter; one of those 
that by their faith and trust and womanly tenderness and 
love had thus far sustained him through the Valley of the 
Shadow. 

Beside him on the bunk another letter lay. Sighing, Ar- 
thur picked it up and once more looked at it witih hollow 
eyes. He knew its ever>' line and word by heart, yet still 
he searched it through for some word or meaning to bear 



FAITH SUBLIME 137 

him hope from the desolated home whence now all hope was 
banished. 

" Piling in pretty fast just now, isn't it?'* he whispered. 
" Pretty fast and pretty hard ! " 

The letter said to him: 

,, _ MiLLASTON, New York, Friday. 

My Boy: 

Your mother will stand by you, come what may. I know this 
whole thing is a terrible conspiracy of lies. You are innocent! 
Yes, Arthur, I know it 

I am only an old woman, now, and crippled as I am I can't go 
to you. Dr. Harris says it might kill me to go. Fm needed too 
much to take any risks. But even though I can't see you, Arthur, 
I can send you all the love and help and devotion of a mother's 
heart 

God has put heavy burdens on to us to bear. Our money is 
nearly gone, as you know, but the old house is worth a few 
hundred dollars, and Tm dickering with Swasey now. I can rais^ 
enough for legal fees that way. The case can't be long. Just let 
you get 3rour story to the jurjrmen and you'll be freed. I know 
it, Arthur; I know it! You're innocent, and that means you'll soon 
be free! 

The news of your arrest on this trumped-up charge struck your 
father down as if he had been shot That was yesterday noon. 
Cyrus Barker told us the news. He was as kind as could be, but 
it just missed killing him outright He was sitting in the big 
rocker by the stove in the kitchen when Cyrus came in. As quick 
as he understood, he jumped up and cried in a terrible voice : 

"Murder! They've arrested Arthur for — " 

That was as far as he got He fell and cut his head on the 
stove. It was another stroke. This makes the second, and he 
has been lying paralyzed ever since, and unconscious most of the 
time. Dr. Harris says he hasn't very much chance. So he may 
be taken away from us, my boy, before you ever see him again. 

He ^d you are all I have now, and you're in jail and he's at 
death's door. Oh, Arthur, Arthur! If tears were dollars to free 
you and bring him back again. Heaven knows the pa3rment would 
be full by now. 

Don't worry, dear, about what will become of us. If they really 
indict and try you it will be better for your father to go now and 
get home where there is rest and peace. As for me, Arthur, I 



138 THE ALIBI 

don't care. I can work for you, and willl There is still strength 
in this heart and in these hands. 

That's all I want in life, now — to work and free you and clear 
your name. Can I ever feel tired, then? If I did I wouldn't be 
your mother. 

Poor Enid, that dear girl of yours I I will write her, telling her 
to have faith and trust in you, even as I have. I know what 
such a tragedy must mean to her. Night and day I will pray and 
work for you. 

I have retained Lawyer Swasey, of Swasey & Hardacre, to defend 
you. He will start for New York to-morrow. Be not downcast 
Truth is mighty and will prevail. After these storms will come 
calm. God knows best All my kisses and all my love to you, 

Mother. 

P.S. — Lawyer Swasey has just been here. He seems unwilling 
to take the case after all, though he won't say why. It surely can't 
be that he thinks he would fail to clear you. I will see Dutton 
at once and engage him. 

Maybe Swasey is afraid he would never get his money. He tells 
me your father's business is in bad shape, and in spite of the twelve 
hundred and fifty dollars you made on that Rio Hondo investment 
and sent us — like the good, dear boy you are — everything is 
very much involved. 

But don't worry, Arthur. There will yet be a way. God can 
make one for you, as He did for the Israelites through the Red 
Sea. Remember, He can do everything! 

Read the Twenty-Third Psalm, especially Verse 4. God keep 

and bless you, my poor lost boy. 

Mother. 

For a few minutes Arthur held the poor, painfully writ- 
ten letter in his hand. His eyes dimmed as he gazed upon 
the halting lines, blotted with tears. Then he crushed it to 
his mouth and kissed it passionately. 

" If she can only be kept from knowing the truth about 
father's business, and why he needed that twelve hundred 
and fifty dollars ! " thought he. " If she can only be kept 
from knowing where I got it I " 

A pang transfixed his heart. That much at least she 



FAITH SUBLIME 139 

would have to know. That much was all admitted. But 
his father, stricken down, unconscious, dying, would never 
need to understand. 

"Thank Heaven for that, at least! Thank Heaven 1" 
he murmured. 

Suddenly he stood up, went over to the little shelf — it 
was but a step or two away — and took the Bible in his 
hand. With it he returned to the hard bunk. After some 
seeking he found the Twenty-Third Psalm, the page already 
soiled by many a miserable wretch in that steel cage of his. 

He read the verse : 

Yea, though I walk in the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I 
will fear no evil, for Thou art with me. Thy rod and Thy staff, 
they comfort me. 

All at once it seemed to him he heard his mother's voice, 
reading the words of consolation, faith, and trust Or was 
it Enid's? Strangely the thought of those two women 
calmed and quieted his fevered soul. 

" Yea, though I walk in the Valley of the Shadow of Death — " 

he said, and repeated the words with slow insistence. 

He put the book up on the shelf again, lay down upon his 
bunk, buried his face in both his arms, and let body, mind 
and soul relax. The close air was poison to his lungs, 
which loved the fresh, pure winds of sea and sky. The 
sounds and sights of that great catacomb of human agony 
all sickened him. Yet with the thought of his mother and 
of Enid strong upon him he could forget — forget, and rest 
a while. 

Thus the boy lay, thinking, longing, dreaming, wonder- 
fully at peace. 

I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me — 

"I am with thee, Arthur," echoed his mother's voice. 



140 



THE ALIBI 



" I am with thee," he heard Enid's. " With thee — with 
thee 1 " 

Under his closed lids the tears started; but now they 
blessed and comforted and soothed. 

Soon he slept — slept soundly in that den of tragedy and 
g^ief and woe — slept and was blessed by the one greatest 
boon of all — oblivion. 



CHAPTER XVI 

LIFE INSURANCE 

WHILE he was still asleep there in the Tombs, Wal- 
ter Haynes Slayton, his face hard and set, 
entered the ramshackle old building where 
Jarboe, the money-shark, laired close up under the roof. 

Slayton walked like a man who had business, albeit none 
of the most pleasant. The creaking elevator bore him 
slowly aloft, seeming too swift by far. Grimly he stalked 
down the dusty and untended hallway, paused at the dirt- 
incrusted glass door that bore the legend: 



Christopher Jarboe 
LOANS 



and gave three taps upon the pane, followed by two. 

For a moment no sound replied. Slayton stood there, 
gnawing his nails in a fever of emotion, the dim light 
through the glass showing his face screwed into a snarl of 
most extraordinary hate and malevolence. 

" Damn the viper I " he muttered. " He can't be out. 
He surely wouldn't make a definite appointment and then 
break it." 

Again he rapped. This time a chair scraped within. A 
halting footfall crossed the floor. A chain rattled. A key 
turned, and the door swung inward, just a crack. 

Slayton perceived the old man's bald head, his disfiguring 

141 



142 THE ALIBI 

wen, and a single beady little eye that glittered craftily. 
Then all at once the door opened wide; and there in the 
aperture stood the aged Shylock, bowing and scraping and 
rubbing his hands together with a most malicious polite- 
ness. 

" Well now ! Well, well, well I Bless my soul ! This is 
a pleasure 1 " he wheezed, laughing silently to himself, as 
was his habit. "Come in, Mr. Slayton! Come into my 
poor abode! Not much to oflFer you, sir; but such as it 
is, such as it is — *' 

" For God's sake, drop that I " growled the cashier in a 
low voice, coming in and closing the door, which Jarboe 
immediately locked and chained after him. " Drop all that 
infernal mockery of yours and tell me what you want! 
When I paid up I thought I was through with you and 
done. But now — " 

" Now it appears that you aren't, eh? Is that it? " chuck- 
led the old usurer, hobbling over to his littered desk on the 
far side of a room indescribable in its dirt, clutter and 
neglect. 

Books, cooking-utensils, broken furniture and old cloth- 
ing all combined with miscellaneous disorder to figure forth 
a room more like the vagaries of a nightmare than any hu- 
man dwelling. At the left a door gave hints of another 
room — a sleeping-place, perhaps; and if so, then possibly 
the receptacle of the old man's money; for rumor had it that 
Jarboe's bed was lined with yellow-backs. 

" Yes ; it appears that you aren't through with old Jar- 
boe after all, eh? " questioned the wizened patriarch. " Old 
Jarboe doesn't let his good friends go so easily. No, no, 
no I Not so easily as all that 1 Not so easily ! " 

He fished an old cigar-butt out of the pocket of his dirty, 
wine-colored dressing-gown, crumbled it in his unwashed 
palm, and stuffed a clay pipe with it. 

" Not so easily, not so ieasily I " he mumbled toothlessly 



LIFE INSURANCE 143 

as he struck a match and lighted the vile dust of the weed. 
" No, no, no I " 

" See here, you dirty old villain I " blurted Slayton, all 
his natural suavity and hypocritical smoothness rasped 
entirely away by his hatred of the miser. " See here now ! 
What do you want? We'll omit all beating round the bush 
and subterfuge and all that sort of thing. You wrote for 
me to see you on urgent business. You made a definite 
appointment. I keep it. What's wanted ? " 

" Wanted, eh ? Oh, nothing, nothing but a little friendly 
arrangement between you and old Jarboe. That's all; 
nothing more. Just a little — friendly — arrangement." 

He leered hideously, puffing at his pipe. 

" Just a little friendly arrangement ; nothing more," Jar- 
boe repeated. 

" Damn you I " exclaimed Slayton, shaking a fist under 
his nose. " I want no friendliness with you! If you've 
got business with me, speak out. Come across with it. 
Otherwise — " 

And he motioned toward the door. 
Don't hurry, Mr. Slayton," said the old man dryly. 

And please don't shake your fist in my face. That always 
makes me nervous. It makes old Jarboe nervous, so it 
does, to have his friends shake their fists at him. Espe- 
cially when all he wants is a friendly arrangement.'^ 

" Arrangement to do what, you Shylock? " 

" Oh, to contribute to old Jarboe's income, that's all." 

" Contribute to — your — " 

" To my income. Certainly I Why not? I'm sure you'll 
be extremely glad to when you understand my terms ! " 

" Terms ? " echoed Slayton, staring in amazement not 
untinged with fear. " Why, what terms ? What arrange- 
ment? I don't owe you a cent, now, you old rip! I paid 
you in full, principal and interest — " 

" The very day after Mackenzie was murdered ; yes in- 



it 



144 THE ALIBI 

deed," interrupted the usurer with an evil glance of cun- 
ning. 

He sat down in a creaking easy-chair cushioned with rag- 
ged carpeting, and waved his hand at another to bid his guest 
be seated also. 

"The very day after he was murdered and the bank 
touched for one hundred and fifty thousand dollars/' the 
old man went on. " Odd, wasn't it ? Very odd coinci- 
dence, says old Jarboe. Hmm I Peculiar, very, that you 
should come in here and put eighty-four thousand dollars, 
plus or minus, right down there on that table where that 
lamp is standing now, the exact day after the night when 
the murder was done. And what's more peculiar is the fact 
that the money was all in thousand-dollar bills, and the ntun- 
bers— " 

" What d'you mean, you dog ? " cried Slayton, menacing 
him with clenched fist. 

The cashier's face had suddenly gone pasty. His thin 
lips twitched ; his eyes, never firm, now blinked with strange 
rapidity. 

"Mean? What does old Jarboe mean? Oh, nothing, 
nothing at all. Don't get excited. I was just saying it was 
peculiar. You'll allow old Jarboe to have an opinion and 
express it, won't you? Express an opinion to a friend?" 

"Confound you! Are you insinuating — ?" 

Jarboe raised a deprecating hand. 

"You asked me that once before," he replied. "That 
very same question, the day of the murder. I answer you 
now as then : I'm insinuating nothing. Only I was think- 
ing — yes, yes, yes; old Jarboe was thinking — that if you 
felt disposed to make a little contribution, say a small sum 
to begin with, and then f rwn time to time — " 

" Blackmail, eh ? " snarled the cashier, his white teeth 
glinting in the lamplight. " So that's your game, is it ? 
Usury and gouging and shylocking in the open, plus black- 



LIFE INSURANCE 145 

mail on the side? Well, it won't go with me! Not this 
time, Jarboe. Fm through with you, for good and all, 
understand? Done, through, finished! Not a cent, to-day, 
to-morrow, or any other day. Get that?" 

The usurer eyed Sla)rton a moment curiously, noting the 
pale and writhen face, the swollen veins upon his brow, 
the look of fear and hate that distorted his face. Then just 
the vaguest suspicion of a smile curved the old man's lips. 

"You interest me," said he quite slowly. "Yes, yes 
indeed ; you interest old Jarboe. Bless my soul, Mr. Slay- 
ton, how very — hmmm I — emphatic you seem over a mere 
trifle. 

" If you don't agree with my little plan, why just say 
' N-o* no. Just give Jarboe the block and stop him on a 
siding. No harm done. No need to get ugly, is there? 
Or work yourself into a passion? Or anything of that 
sort?" 

" You skunk 1 " 

" Easy I Easy with old Jarboe ! " 

And the usurer's eyes glinted with menace. 

" Don't abuse the old man. Maybe he knows something 
and maybe not. No telling. If he should just happen 
to—" 

"What do you know, you — ?"• 

"Ah, what, indeed?" 

And Jarboe blew a cloud of stale smoke. " Now that's 
an interesting question. I admit it's mighty interesting. 
What does old Jarboe know, eh? The whole thing hinges 
right on that. What does he know ? Maybe a lot. Maybe 
nothing. Maybe — " 

" You told me the day I paid you that we were through 
— that if any skeletons rattled in your closet or mine it was 
nobody's business ! That you — " 

* " Ah, yes ; but I've changed my mind since then, you see. 
Old Jarboe's changed his mind. He's been thinking things 



146 THE ALIBI 

over. His finances have been breaking a bit bad. He's 
been coming to see that you, with easy access to the kale, 
would think it a pleasure and a privilege to help the old 
man out, and — *' 

" Not a sou 1 " 

" Very well. That settles it Nothing more to be said ; 
is there? Not a word to say. 

" Only, I'm just telling you, if old Jarboe should happen 
to appear in court when the case is called, and if he should 
happen to produce certain matters and things, evidence and 
what-not, and volunteer as a witness, and so forth, and so 
on, well — don't be surprised, that's all." 

The old man leaned back in his chair, pulled at his foul 
pipe with satisfaction, and smiled horribly, his few discol- 
ored teeth showing broken and crooked in his purplish 
gums. 

Slayton gasped and leaned heavily against the table. His 
face had gone absolutely ashen. 

"You — you wouldn't r* he exclaimed in a husky whis- 
per. 

" Did I say I would ? Did old Jarboe state that he 
would? Emphatically no! He merely remarked that if 
he did you weren't to be astonished. That's all. Nothing 
more. Why misunderstand me ? " 

"You couldn't do it!" Slayton exclaimed. "Your rec- 
ord is too rotten. They've got too much on you ! You'd 
never dare appear in court. And then beside, you don't 
know anything ! " 

" Well, that remains to be seen. That's your problem to 
solve. Maybe I know and maybe I don't who really entered 
the Powhatan Bank that night, and whose hand was inside 
that glove, and where those gray hairs came from that were 
found in Mackenzie's fingers next morning. Maybe — " 

Slayton sprang at him, to clutch him by the throat; but 
with extraordinary agility the old man slid down and away. 



LIFE INSURANCE 147 

scrambled out of reach behind the table, and stood up, facing 
him, still with the sneering smile on his lips. 

"Don't hurt old Jarboe," he pleaded with mock sup- 
plication. "Don't assault the old man or injure him or 
kill him. Because in that case it would be so very unpleas- 
ant, so extremely embarrassing for you. There are pa- 
pers, you know — writings, documents and so on — that in 
case old Jarboe were to die might go to District Attorney 
Ainslow. I'm not threatening you, understand. Old Jar- 
boe never indulges in threats. I'm only warning you like 
the good friend I am. Warning you — in time." 

Slayton, realizing through all his passion that he was 
caught, groaned in extreme anguish and terror. How much 
did the old sewer-rat know? Nothing, perhaps. Every- 
things, perhaps. Impossible to tell. 

Hopeless to think of risking life on the gamble of this 
being all a bluflF. No, no! A thousand times no I Not 
that 1 Not life ! Life could not be gambled with, that way. 

Sla)rton, recoiling, lifted a hand to hi§ brow. A cry of 
utter misery forced itself from his lips. The old man, 
watching, smiled with satisfaction, nodded, and stroked 
his chin. The trap, he saw, had caught its victim. 

"Well?" he demanded. " ShaU we do business ? WiU 
you enter negotiations with old Jarboe? All in a nice, 
quiet, friendly way ? Business now ? " 

Slayton eyed him a minute in silence with a look so bale- 
ful, so terrible in its hate, that any other save the aged 
usurer would have trembled. But Jarboe did not tremble. 
He only puffed his pipe, smiled a discolored smile, and 
scratched his wen. 

" Business ? " he demanded once more. 

" Yes." 

The answer came in a guttural breath. 

"All right. Old Jarboe's ready. Terms reasonable, se- 
curity and perfect satisfaction guaranteed. As long as you 



it 



148 THE ALIBI 

keep your bargain — when we've made it — not a sound will 
old Jarboe utter. Not a bone of the skeleton will he 
rattle. Not a breath will he breathe. All you have to do 
is to meet your just obligations, and — " 

" How much ? One lump sum ? " 

"Yes. And then, easy payments," leered the usurer. 

"What sum?" 
Twenty-five thousand dollars, cash. And — " 
Twenty-five thou — ? " 

" Not a cent less." 

" But — but I — good God, man, I can't ! " 

"You can, and will. A man will do much to live in 
safety and peace. There's lots more where the hundred 
and fifty thousand came from. A mere trifle, twenty-five 
thousand. On or before the day of the trial, that's what 
old Jarboe needs. In cash. Just by way of a little present 
from a dear old friend, and — " 

" Stop ! You can gouge and bleed me, you shark, but 
I draw the line at your sarcasm 1 Cut that part out, you 
understand ? " 

" And then, so much a month, after that," continued the 
usurer, unmoved. "Just a little monthly present, by way 
of a good- will oflFering. Safety-insurance, eh? Old Jar- 
boe's safety-insurance, ha, ha, ha ! " 

His laughter echoed grim and heart-appalling through the 
room. Slayton, on the point of collapse, leaned over the 
table, steadying himself with both palms pressed on its filthy 
top. 

" How much a month ? " 

"One thousand dollars." 

"One — thousand! Have mercy! Five hundred, Jar- 
boe — make it five hundred! That's all I can pay — all I 
can possibly pay ! " 

" I said one thousand, and that goes. Bottom figure, for 
the service. Cheap, Sla3rton ; very, very cheap. Sing Sing 



. LIFE INSURANCE 149 

is so extremely uncomfortable, and they use such tr.emen- 
dously high voltage for the chair, you know, it quite singes 
a fellow's flesh. Bums it shockingly, I believe. Yes, old 
Jarboe has heard it shrivels — " 

" Stop, stop I Hold on I I give in I My God I I — I'll 
pay!" 

" Very good ; very good, indeed. I knew you'd be rea- 
sonable — reasonable with old Jarboe. It's a life contract, 
you know. Get that quite clear, Mr. Slayton. As long as 
old Jarboe lives — and you daren't make way with him, 
because that would lead to most deplorable results — the 
little friendly arrangement will last. Is that quite under- 
stood?" 

Slayton nodded, his face tense with impotent hate and 
malice. 

" Very good, then." The old man smiled with a hideous, 
oblique leer. " It's all done and settled, you see, quite pleas- 
antly and in good order. Mr. Sla)rton and old Jarboe are 
still friends — still the best of friends. One party's 
got his life insured. The other has a life income, and is 
positively sure that not a single pa3mient will be allowed to 
default. What could be more satisfactory? 

" So then, no need to detain you longer. You're a busy 
man, I know. So is old Jarboe. Very, very busy. Let's 
say good evening, then, and au revoirl I needn't detain 
you. Good night, Mr. Sla)rton I Good night ! " 

Slayton eyed him a moment with virulent hate. 

" Some day," said he in a low, trembling voice, " I'll get 
you — get you hardl" 

Jarboe made no answer save to request without looking 
up: 

" Please close the door when you go out. Qose it, but 
don't slam it Good night." 

When the cashier, speechless with passion, was gone, the 
old man chuckled slyly. 



ISO 



THE ALIBI 



"I knew he'd be reasonable with old Jarboe," said he, 
" Reasonable and sensible, after all, and willing to do busi- 
ness. As a bluff, my game was surely some bluff. Noth- 
ing to go on really except those new thousand-dollar bills, 
and yet see how he fell for it I If ever a man took a pot on 
a pair of deuces, that man's old Jarboe. Ha, ha, ha ! " 

Thus cheered by his reflections, he sat him down again in 
his easy-chair, took up a list of loans, and, pipe in mouth, 
once more applied himself to the delightful task of calcu- 
lating his extensive usuries. . 



CHAPTER XVII 

THE BATTLE OPENS 

INDICTED on two charges — grand larceny and mur- 
der — by a special grand jury on the last day of No- 
vember, Arthur was remanded to the Tombs for 
speedy trial. In view of the atrocity of the crime and the 
state of public opinion. Governor Mclntyre appointed Judge 
Grossmith to hear the case in Special Sessions. Follow- 
ing the usual order of the court calendar, eighteen months 
or more might have elapsed before Arthur could have been 
summoned to the bar. But now, on December 15, he was 
destined to appear as defendant in the People of the State 
of New York vs. Arthur Mansfield. 

The murder charge, of course, obscured the other of 
grand larceny, with its subsidiary charges. While the rob- 
bery, the threat against Slayton, and the assault at the time 
of arrest would doubtless have their bearing on the case, 
as factors tending to establish the character of the accused, 
any specific action on them, or on the admitted theft of the 
one thousand two hundred and fifty dollars would be held 
in abeyance till such time as the murder charge should have 
been heard. Only in the very improbable event of the de- 
fendant being acquitted would any of these lesser accu- 
sations ever be heard of again. 

Every effort made by the police to force Arthur to confess 
what he had done with the one hundred and fifty thousand 
dollars they assumed him to have stolen resulted only in 
more furious denials on his part. For the present, at least, 
no progress could be made in locating the money. 

151 



152 THE ALIBI 

That Arthur's position was serious in the extreme became 
more and more apparent with the passage of the lagging 
December days. Though no new evidence against him de- 
veloped, and though the " third degree," to which he was 
brutally subjected, failed to extort any confession, or even 
shake his sturdy assertion of " Innocent 1 ", nevertheless 
both press and public were now lining up solidly against 
him. 

Sensationalism rioted with the fact of Enid's support, in 
ways appallingly cruel. But Enid neither retracted nor hes- 
itated. Her colors flying from her lance, she still declared 
Arthur's innocence. She retained Hosmer & Keene in his 
defense — ignoring her father's protests and the world's 
c)mical amusement — and entered the lists against the power 
of the State as militantly bold as ever Jeanne d'Arc rode at 
the head of the mailed fighting men of France. 

Arthur had only his mother and Sheridan and Enid to 
lean upon in his deadly peril. Enid proved the only real 
hope. Had it not been for her letters, her flowers, her vis- 
its, the messages of cheer she brought him, and the prom- 
ises of speedy acquittal, Arthur must have sunk, annihilated, 
beneath his burden. 

The support of ex-teller Sheridan, now that he had re- 
signed from the bank, had ceased to have much value. In 
some ways it even tended to injure Arthur. Just how it 
happened who could say ? But means were found by some- 
body to discredit the former teller to such an extent that 
within a few days Hosmer & Keene wrote him, requesting 
him to cease all activities on their client's behalf. Thence- 
forth he dropped out of the case entirely save as a despair- 
ing, miserable spectator. 

Arthur's mother, helpless with rheumatism and without 
funds, could do nothing save furnish pitiful interviews and 
fervent protestations, read with tongue in cheek by a hostile 
world. A poor, dazed, impotent old woman, she too sub- 



/ 



THE BATTLE OPENS 153 

sided into oblivion, crushed by this tragedy as by the death 
of her husband, which added its burden to her son's bowed 
shoulders. 

After Mr. Mansfield's death, on December 7, from paraly- 
sis, unsuspected business delinquencies were immediately 
discovered which, had he lived, might have sent the old man 
to the penitentiary. Rumor and innuendo worked over- 
time — and slander waxed fat. In all Arthur's home town 
of Millarton not one voice was raised in the boy's favor. 

" Like father, like son 1 " the verdict passed from moutK 
to mouth ; and every nod and look and sneer was caught by 
quick reporters and magnified through their lenses of ex- 
aggeration — caught and flung upon the great white screen 
of publicity — and witnessed by millions. 

None of Arthur's former friends — either in Millarton 
or in New York — came forward with a single word in bis 
behalf. He was learning now with bitter swiftness how 
friends fade and fall away in the hour of anguish, need 
and death! 

Yes, and he was learning more, far more — he was learn- 
ing to know the heart and soul of Enid Chamberlain. 

Black and lowering hung the clouds over the boy's bruised 
and wounded head. Evil vulture-swarms of lies, slanders, 
griefs and woes attacked him — tore at his heart and beat 
their wings against his eyes to blind and stun him I 

From some source or other, sinister and hidden, full in- 
side details of the crime in all its most sensational features 
were now and then transmitted by anonymous letter to Man- 
ager Gilchrist of the Amalgamated Press. Some of these 
statements, all strongly damaging to Arthur, were used by 
that news service. They reached many millions of readers 
and helped oil the machinery of the law which now was 
grinding relentlessly on toward conviction. 

So positive became public prejudice against the boy that 
by the loth of December you might have combed the panel 



154 THE ALIBI 

lists of Manhattan County without any real hope of assem- 
bling a jury even reasonably impartial. 

Thus all the social forces drew together resistlessly with 
an immense and crushing power to overwhelm him. And 
against them stood — what? Only a girl, striving against 
hope. Only a firm of lawyers — keen, clever and resource- 
ful, indeed, yet not themselves convinced of the boy's inno- 
cence — and working only for hire. 

Thus fate meshed the warp and woof of human destinies, 
smiling the while in irony at the sorry jest of the poor hu- 
man drama — Life ! 



" Hear ye ! Hear ye I His Honor the Court is now en- 
tering!" 

Droning and perfunctory, the lifeless, official voice of the 
court crier uttered the hoary formula, his words hardly aud- 
ible above the buzz and rustle of the crowded room. 

Reluctant silence settled down upon that place of trage- 
dies supreme, close and ill-ventilated under the incandes- 
cents' glare — for though the hour was ten of the morning, 
a leaden December fog-pall strangled the city tmder its grip 
of gloom. 

Here, there, a court officer with word or frown or nudge 
silenced some spectator who still persisted in discussion. 
Without the doors others pushed back the crowding, mor- 
bidly eager mob of those who, envying the more fortunate 
within, sought with craned neck and eager ear to catch 
some glimpse or sound of the sensational trial now impend- 
ing. 

"Oyez! OyezI" 

A little door at the right swung open silently, and Judge 
Grossmith appeared. Robed in a loose black gown which 
with his hooked bill of a nose made a huge, somber, legal 
raven of him, he walked leisurely toward the bench. Under 
one arm he carried a couple of law-books. His other hand 



THE BATTLE OPENS 155 

held a large leather portfolio^ whence papers showed their 
learned-looking edges. 

Everybody stood up — District Attorney Ainslow and his 
staff; Keene, for the defense, and his assistants; jurors, 
witnesses, reporters, spectators — all. Old Jarboe, dirty as 
ever and twice as sharp, stood up among the rest, eying 
Slayton across the room with a sardonic smile that might 
have furnished forth a painter's inspiration for a face of 
Beelzebub. Slayton, very pale but quite collected, paid no 
heed to the usurer's nods and bows and smiles, but kept his 
eyes fixed on the Court. Chamberlain, standing before the 
front row of spectators' benches with Enid, did likewise. 
The girl, her eager eyes intent on Keene, seemed estimating 
his ability to stem the rushing tides of legalized lynch-spirit 
which — despite all she could strive for, all she could do — 
might yet sweep Arthur away, away from her upon its tur- 
bulent bosom, away to infamy and death. 

Enid 1 How choice a target for unnimibered staring eyes, 
for artists' and reporters' pencils, for cameras, for special 
writers' word-paintings, for innuendo and vapid gossip 1 
How rare a target in her trim gray gown and simple hat; 
how rare, and how sublime in her indifference to it all! 
Save for a somewhat heightened color and a dark luster of 
her eyes — the dilated pupils of which now made them seem 
quite black — she showed no sign of tension or of stress, 
but stood quietly, bravely, calmly, waiting the next step of 
the unfolding drama that meant life itself to her — the bat- 
tle for the man she loved. 

Thus for a moment or two everybody stood there, keyed 
to attention. Such as had neglected promptly to rise were 
pointedly adjured by the officers to pay their due respect 
to the majesty of the law. But now Grossmith slapped his 
books and papers sharply down, pulled tJie little chain of his 
desk-light, and gazed out over the audience before him. 

Fixing his glasses on that hawk-nose of his, he blinked 



IS6 THE ALIBI 

sharp, shrewd eyes at the public. He nodded shortly to 
Chamberlain, a client of his in the old days. His glance 
rested a second on Enid, but gave no sign of any emotion, 
not even curiosity. 

It wandered over the witnesses — Mrs. Johansen, Ar- 
thur's landlady; Slayton and his wife; Anderson, Ashley, 
Roadstrand and Nelson — then flickered across the array' 
of attorneys, skimmed the jurors in their box, and finally, 
having thus appraised the personnel of the approaching 
conflict, with a perfectly legalized lack of interest, once more 
fell upon the books before him. 

A fair, impartial judge, this Grossmith. Even his bit- 
terest enemies admitted that. Himian sentiment and emo- 
tion- had long since been dry-rotted out of his soul by the 
dust of parchment. A legal machine, he; nothing more. 
^ He would rule on the evidence, the law, the correct proce- 
dure, and do no more. As a man, nil. As a judge, per- 
fection. 

Coughing dryly, he gathered his robes about him and sat 
down. Everybody sat down, and a rustling, a whispering, 
a murmur of low-voiced conversation began again. Then 
all at once as a breeze runs over the tasseled com, swaying 
it in progressive waves, so a new, tense interest moved the 
packed audience. 

"He's coming now! There he is — look, look! He's 
coming 1" 

" Order I " cried Jthe Court sharply, rapping with his gavel ; 
but even he could not restrain the fever of excitement that 
now possessed the crowd at sight of Arthur, moving slowly 
in from the left, flanked by two officers. 

"Look, lookl There he is!" 

The boy was pale, of course, but his head was high — his 
head, that still showed marks of the police club. His eyes 
met the hostile eyes of the multitude quietly and calmly. 
He had recovered from the inertia of the first shock, and 



THE BATTLE OPENS 157 

now was neatly dressed and clean-shaven. One might 
have thought him merely a spectator who had recently had 
an illness, rather than the accused himself, the man at whom 
all fingers now were pointing, at whom all tongues were 
shouting : 

" Murderer 1" 

All? Nol Not alll If one with God is a majority, 
then was the balance in his favor. For one there was look- 
ing on him with unshakable love, faith and devotion. One 
was smiling bravely. One was sending him the message : 

" Hopel Trust in mel For I, Enid, believe in you, and 
trust and love you I " 

Her eyes and his met for a moment in a message that 
thrilled them both. A little smile came to his lips. He 
nodded at her, and she smiled, too. Even there under the 
shadow of death that ray of sunshine could not be denied 
them. 

Then Arthur sat down in the chair reserved for him, 
looked with unabashed eyes at the " twelve good men and 
true " in whose hands his life was soon to be entrusted, and 
finally after a glance at the judge turned toward Keene on 
his left. Busy pencils already were limning his features or 
plunging into descriptive paragraphs. Not an eye in all that 
room but focused itself upon his clean-chiseled, pallid face, 
with the broad brows, the straight nose, the blue-gray eyes 
more fitted for smiles than for sorrow ; the lips tight shut, 
the chin of contour that promised great strength in later 
life — if life indeed were not soon to be reft from his 
powerful young body. 

Already now the clerk of the court was reading the in- 
dictment of the grand jury. Silence fell, so tense that the 
ticking of the clock above Judge Grossmith's head could be 
distinctly heard. In a mechanical voice, which hardly rose 
above the muffled hum of street traffic, without, the old clerk 
droned his way through the devious whereases, aforesaids 



158 THE ALIBI 

and herebyeSy ending with the charge of murder, against the 
peace and welfare of the State of New York. 

Arthur gave no sign or look of emotion. Calmly he sat 
there, listening. Enid, too, remained quite calm. Her fa- 
ther, indeed, showed more distress than she. The tragedy 
was coming close to him at last. On Enid's happiness he 
had builded high hopes, and now they all seemed crumbling. 
Each day had put a month of age upon his shoulders — a 
year, perhaps. Already, as he sat there listening to those 
terrible words, the man was old, old, old ! Senility had all 
at once laid its chill hand on him, bidding him follow its re- 
tumless path. 

Now the clerk ceased his droning, and once more sat 
down. 

" What does the defendant plead to this charge ? " asked 
the Court. 

Attention once more rose acute. Slayton, leaning for- 
ward, forgot to breathe. Jarboe studied him with malice 
and smiled evilly. Every gaze other than his now fixed it- 
self on Keene, the boy's attorney. 

Keene stood up. 

" If it please your Honor, not guilty," he answered briefly, 
and sat down. 

A buzz of pleased expectancy filled the room. Obviously 
the public was happy. Even until that moment a chance 
had existed that Arthur might plead guilty and throw him- 
self on the clemency of the court. Now, however, it was 
sure that he was going to fight. 

Nothing of course could come of it. He was bound to 
lose. His plight was precisely similar to that of a rat in a 
rat-pit with a terrier confronting him. But in no probabil- 
ity now would the door of that pit be opened. The audi- 
ence was certain of a game and losing fight. Hence its re- 
joicing. Arthur was now surely to be done to death in its 
presence. 



THE BATTLE OPENS 159 

Amid a tense, expectant silence the judge fixed the date 
on which the trial was to open. 

After days of bitter wrangling, in the course of which 
the last peremptory challenge of the defense had been ex- 
hausted, the jury was finally impaneled. The ponderous 
mechanism of justice was now ready to winnow out the 
wheat of truth from the chaff of lies. 

Ainslow, the district attorney, arose, faced the judge, 
and bowed, did the same to the jury, and in a business- 
like tone outlined the case for the State : That on the night 
of the 1 8th of November one Donald Mackenzie, night- 
watchman at the Powhatan National Bank, had been mur- 
dered, and that the State would show the murderer to be 
the defendant in this action ; namely, Arthur Mansfield, now 
under indictment for the crime. 

Keene for the defense outlined the case for his client. 
He would prove, he said, that the character and habits of 
the defendant were such as to preclude any possibility of 
his having committed so atrocious a crime ; that on the night 
and at the hour in question the defendant had been in his 
own room at the house of one Mrs. Johansen; and finally 
that, not having had any means of access to the bank, he 
must be exculpated wholly and the guilt rest with some 
party or parties unknown. 

He sat down, leaving a decided impression of weakness in 
his case. Against the confident air of the district attorney, 
and the positive manner in which Ainslow had engaged to 
prove the facts as alleged by the State, Keene's argument 
seemed futile in its impotence. Ainslow smiled to himself 
and cast an appraising eye at the jury as he once more arose. 

" Your Honor and gentlemen of the jury," said he, " in 
proof of the facts alleged in the indictment against this de- 
fendant, the State will now proceed to the introduction of 
testimony to show motive for the crime — the fact of a 



i6o THE ALIBI 

theft by the defendant of the sum of twelve hundred and 
fifty dollars from the bank in question, and the strong prob- 
ability of the theft of one hundred and fifty thousand dol- 
lars ; the fact that the defendant was possessed of a pistol 
on the night of the murder and that he threatened human 
life ; the fact that he was out practically all the night of the 
murder, and that he showed signs of exhaustion and disor- 
der in the morning. The State will also prove that the 
crimes in the bank were positively committed by an employee 
of that institution, and that the defendant when accused as- 
saulted the coroner and the consulting physician." 

Ainslow next engaged to produce certain material exhib- 
its, all absolutely substantiating the charge in a perfectly 
irrefutable manner. 

He concluded amid suppressed applause, which the offi- 
cers and the judge's gavel had difficulty in ending. The 
public already considered Arthur hopelessly lost, and ex- 
ulted in the fate of a criminal so cold-blooded. 

Meanwhile, a strange little underplay had been going on 
between old Jarboe and Slayton. At the end of Keene's 
address the usurer had caught Slayton's guilty eye seeking 
his face with involuntary dread. 

How did Jarboe manage to convey his message? Who 
could have told ? Yet Slayton understood it. 

Was it a certain look in those crafty, narrow eyes ? Was 
it the smile of malice? Was it the seemingly casual manner 
in which the old man fingered his scant gray hair — hair 
that reminded Slayton of the six gray hairs found in the 
dead hand of Mackenzie? Was it all these or something 
else? 

No telling; but, at any rate, the cashier shuddered, paled 
and turned away in mortal dread. 

He knew now, he understood to the full, that everything 
by in that Shylock's crooked hands. He comprehended 
that a word from Jarboe might free Arthur and seat him. 



THE BATTLE OPENS 



i6i 



Slayton, in the chair of death. All, absolutely everything, 
depended on Jarboe. 

Would the usurer keep faith ? Having received the blood- 
money and the promise of those horrible payments, which 
meant to Slayton a life of slavery and continued theft that 
could end only in disaster, would Jarboe keep faith? 

Slayton's heart turned sick within him. He arose, made 
his way to the water-cooler and drank greedily; then once 
more sat down, mopping his forehead, wet with the sweat 
of so intense an anguish that no human suffering, it seemed 
to him, could equal it. 

Thus, racked by agony and terror, he watched the open- 
ing act of the great drama of life and death. Arthur, the 
accused, sat calm and brave and hopeful, sustained by Enid 
in his hour of supreme need. Slayton, against whom no 
single word had yet been spoken, writhed in torment. 

And so now the actual battle of life, of death, began. 



CHAPTER XVIII 

THE BITTER FIGHT 

HENDERSON, Keene's ablest assistant, leaned 
over to his chief and urgently begged a change of 
plea. 

" For Heaven's sake, Keene," he whispered, " have Mans- 
field withdraw his ' not guilty ' and substitute ' guilty ' with 
a plea for clemency 1 If he doesn't, they'll send him to the 
chair, sure as gunsl" 

Keene nodded approval, pondered a moment, and then 
conferred with his client. He, too, now believed that in no 
other way could Arthur escape the chair. But the boy un- 
hesitatingly and indignantly repelled the suggestion. 

" I'll either stand or fall on the truth," he whispered back 
emphatically. '' I don't believe a man totally innocent can 
be convicted of a crime. I'm innocent. Absolutely inno- 
cent 1 I won't perjure myself even to save my life 1 " 

Keene appealed to Enid to get her help in making Arthur 
change his mind, but all in vain. She took exactly the 
same ground as he. No argument could shake either of 
them. 

This decision, Keene felt, could have none but a fatal out- 
come. The testimony of the State was developing terrible 
streng^. Nowhere could the slightest loophole be discov- 
ered. 

Ainslow first put Anderson, janitor of the bank, on the 
stand. Anderson told how he had found the body, noti- 
fied the authorities, and later discovered the pistol behind 
some ash-barrels in the basement. Nothing of value to the 

defense was elicited by Keene's cross-examination. 

162 



^. 



THE BITTER FIGHT 163 

G)roner Roadstrand followed. Under Ainslow's skilled 
direct examination he narrated his verdict, described the 
condition of the body, told of Arthur's incriminating 
appearance on reaching the .bank^ gave an account of 
the preliminary medical examination as conducted by 
himself with Dr. Nelson's assistance, and ended with 
Arthur's assault in the directors' room. His testimony im- 
pressed the jury deeply ; it stood firm against all Keene's at- 
tacks. 

Slayton, nervous, but highly intelligent, gave a coherent 
narrative. It was noticed that he appeared greatly worn 
by emotion, and that not once during his testimony did he 
look at the prisoner. This was favorably commented on as 
proof of his affection for Mansfield and of his grief at be- 
ing forced to testify against the boy. A certain well-marked 
hesitation at times further substantiated this unwillingness. 

Twice during his story he was seen to peer at a certain ec- 
centric old money-lender named Jarboe, who sat near by, 
nodding and smiling, with a few gray hairs twiddling in 
his gnarled fingers. At these times Slayton appeared to suf- 
fer acutely. Only a few persons noted the incidents, and 
these may have interpreted them to mean that Jarboe was 
urging him on to testify even more strongly against the boy, 
which Sla)^on was obviously unwilling to do. 

Slayton's story drove still another nail into Arthur's coffin. 
His direct testimony about the boy's theft of twelve hun- 
dred and fifty dollars, and about the threats that Arthur had 
made against his life, pistol in hand, damaged the case for 
the defense almost beyond repair. The cashier's evidence 
ended with an account of how he had disarmed the accused, 
had sent him home, had then written Mrs. Slayton, and had 
gone to bed. 

Keene, sensing a certain weakness in this testimony, cross- 
examined Slayton with searching acuteness ; but the cashier 
met him with admirable skill, and stood the gaff well. The 



i64 THE ALIBI 

grueling attacks were all successfully parried. Keene did 
no more than bring out a few new details and some trivial 
contradictions. Ever since the murder Slayton had been 
drilling himself in this story and schooling himself on all its 
minutiae. Now he was able to make it carry with the ring 
of truth. 

Once he seemed on the point of breaking — one of the 
two times when Jarboe caught his eye with a horrible leer. 
But he quickly looked away, mustered his nerve again, and 
faced the ordeal, pale, but unshakable. The few trivialities 
in which Keene succeeded in confusing him did not affect 
his story as a whole. It stood. 

Mrs. Slayton and Ashley, the Slaytons' neighbor at Oak- 
wood Heights, next testified. Mrs. Slayton read the letter 
received by her, mentioning Arthur's criminal conduct. 
This letter was placed with other exhibits to be used by the 
jury in its deliberations. 

Ashley stated that Slayton had walked to the railway sta- 
tion with him at the accustomed hour, the morning after the 
murder. Keene briefly cross-examined both without any 
results favorable to the defense. 

At this point in the trial Slayton became so indisposed 
that he had to withdraw to a private room for more than 
two hours. The cashier's emotion was extreme. He 
seemed to be standing on the edge of a complete breakdown. 
Everybody commented favorably on his grief for Arthur, 
and on the evident reluctance with which he had testified 
against the boy. 

President Chamberlain, of the bank, stated the amount 
of the financial loss : twelve hundred and fifty dollars in the 
first instance, acknowledged by the defendant to have been 
taken by him, and one hundred and fifty thousand dollars 
in the second instance, denied by him. Led along by Ains- 
low, the witness also described how the safe had been 
opened by means of the combination, told of the destruction 



THE BITTER FIGHT 165 

of the pages in the ledger containing records of the thou- 
sand-dollar bills, and ended by a gratuitous plea for clem- 
ency, which was suppressed by Judge Grossmith with some 
severity. 

Keene's cross-examination for the defense did not change 
this story a hair's breadth. Recess now intervened, leaving 
the State, so far, undisputed master of the field. 

Dr. Nelson's expert medical testimony, after recess, com- 
pleted the case for the State. 

It held the fagged audience spellbound, furnished fresh 
thrills to the wearied newspapermen anO sensation-seekers, 
and put the final touch of gruesome tension to the already 
overwrought drama. 

His story fell like lead on Arthur's sinking hopes, and 
Enid's. He spoke in a cold, impersonal manner, wholly 
devoid of rhetoric and without the slightest possible animus 
against the defendant. Calmly he instructed the jurors as 
to the basic principles of medical proof, and thereafter ex- 
hibited the grisly evidences of the boy's blood-guilt. 

" Gentlemen," said he, " these are not matters of senti- 
ment, but of science. Science knows neither good nor evil. 
She knows only facts. 

" No criminal has yet been able to commit a crime with- 
out leaving certain traces which the eye of science can de- 
tect. The old saying, ' Dead men tell no tales,' has become 
false. He who depends on it in murdering depends on a 
fallacy. 

"To-day the murderer has to reckon with the chemist, 
the physicist, the Roentgenologist, and other scientists, in- 
cluding the Bertillon-measurement expert, the finger-print 
analyst, the expert blood-tester and many others. Between 
them, the way of the transgressor has become hard indeed." 

A breathless silence held the room. Spectators, jurors, 
all gazed intently at this bald, little man, whose keen eyes 



i66 THE ALIBI 

peered so impassively through those round shell glasses of 
his. Enid, clasping her hands with more nervousness than 
she had yet exhibited, watched him intently with parted lips 
and fading color. Arthur, his eyes for the first time ex- 
pressing a doubt, a fear, listened to every word with terrible 
eagerness. Nelson, paying Mansfield no more heed than as 
if this man whose life he was about to take away had been 
a block of stone, continued calmly: 

" A case took place in France, in 1913, in which a man 
was found walking quickly away from a place where a mur- 
dered man was lying. The former was known to be a bitter 
enemy of the latter, and had, moreover, a blood-stained knife 
in his possession and blood-stains on his clothing. On the 
point of conviction, the methods of Professors E. T. Reich- 
ert and A. P. Brown — which methods can identify the kind 
of blood, human, animal, or reptilian, its age, race, and even 
the length of time since it was shed — proved this blood to 
be that of a rabbit, and the prisoner was acquitted." 

A more hopeful look came into Arthur's face. Enid 
glanced at him with loving encouragement ; but Keene, wise 
in the methods of this impersonal machine of a man, frowned 
slightly. 

" I could tell you other cases, gentlemen," continued Nel- 
son, " in which blood claimed to be that of rabbits, fowls, or 
pigs has been proved to be that of human beings, and men 
have been caught and hanged thereby for murder. Lechan- 
arzo, the Italian expert, can tell you when any particular 
specimen of blood was spilled; and his method has 
saved many innocent men and condemned many guilty 
ones. 

" Mutilations of a body often betray the criminal by the 
skilled or unskilled nature of the cuts. Occupational de- 
formities or diseases have their story to tell in evidence. 
Let me cite you a peculiar case. A man recently murdered 
his father and cut him into more than a hundred pieces. 



THE BITTER FIGHT 167 

He buried these pieces, confident that even if any of them 
were found the mutilation was so complete that identifica- 
tion could not be made. Daily he expressed surprise that his 
father did not return home. 

'' Six months after the deed a farmer dug up a human 
hand. This apparently gave no clue. It might be anybody's 
hand. But an expert criminologist noticed certain callosities 
on the palm, of a peculiar nature. He begged the old man's 
walking-stick from the grieving son as a keepsake. The 
curiously carved knob of the stick fitted the calloused hand, 
and — the son was hanged." 

The pause he made so simply was dramatic in the ex- 
treme. A sigh of intense emotion rose from the stifling, 
fetid room. Two or three of the jurymen leaned forward. 
Evidently Nelson was leading up to something of great mo- 
ment 

Keene suddenly arose. 

"Your Honor," said he, ''I object. This discussion is 
not relevant, and tends to prejudice the minds of the jurors 
against my client." 

"Objection overruled," answered Grossmith. "In the 
opinion of the court, matters tending to enlighten the jurors 
on the scope and function of evidence are apposite to the 



case." 



Keene, disgruntled, subsided, and Nelson continued: 
" If a man is found dead, shot through the head and with 
a pistol in his hand, gentlemen," he went on evenly, " what 
is more rational than a verdict of suicide? But in real sui- 
cide the weapon is held so firmly that force is required to 
dislodge it I refer you to an article by Davina Watterson, 
in the Alienist and Neurologist, for full facts in such cases. 
The muscular spasm persists tmtil rigor mortis sets in. It 
is impossible to make the hand of a corpse grip a weapon 
that was not in it at the moment of death. This fact has 
often opened the door to detection. 



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THE BITTER FIGHT 169 

■ Next he exhibited the broken letter-opener and the point 
that had been severed from it, and expounded how it had 
been used to open Slayton's desk. 

The burned glove-snaps followed, and the intact glove with 
the blood-marks, identified under the microscope and chem- 
ically as Mackenzie's blood. 

Then came the bits of paper bearing the carbon-copied 
letters and figures of the combination. After this, a state- 
ment from the doctor that the button he now showed had 
been found close by the body. Arthur's coat was produced, 
and the jury were shown how the button matched, and where 
it had fallen off from the sleeve. 

" This, gentlemen, completes the exhibits," concluded Nel- 
son gravely, " with the exception of one bit of evidence 
which we have not been able to correlate with anything else 
in the case. I refer to these half-dozen gray hairs found in 
the dead hand of Mackenzie." 

He held them up for inspection, wrapped with a thread 
and sewn to a stiff card. 

"These, gentlemen, are not human hairs at all. They 
constitute a most peculiar factor in the case. We have no 
hypothesis to explain them. They may mean nothing, and 
they may mean everything. In your deliberations give them 
due weight. I have no more to offer, and I thank you for 
your kind attention." 

Nelson sat down, took off his glasses and wiped his brow. 
Again the buzz and hum of voices sounded through the 
room. Enid, now deathly pale, her large eyes fixed on Ar- 
thur, seemed lost in despair. 

For the first time her o^ptimism had deserted her. Her 
look met Arthur's and she tried to smile, but miserably 
failed. Tears blurred her vision, but still she looked upon 
the man she loved, now wan and worn and suffering. 

Keene exerted himself to the full in the cross-examination 
of the doctor, but made no progress. He dared not ques- 



tMMBMhMaBMBtaMAfeaB^nakMMWMMi 



170 THE ALIBI 

tion the identity or ownership of the pistol, the letter-opener, 
the glove or any of the exhibits — a point that told heavily 
against him. 

Though he tried to make capital out of the finding of the 
gray hairs, he failed to reach any conclusion, since he had no 
hypothesis to work on in this enigma. Nobody short of a 
Sherlock Holmes could indeed have deduced anything from 
that seemingly insoluble mystery. Nobody knew what those 
hairs meant, or could guess — nobody but the absent Slay- 
ton, who had crept away to seclusion, unable longer to en- 
dure the presence and the menace of old Jarboe. 

After forty-five minutes of cross-questioning, together 
with some re-direct and a little re-cross-examination, Keene 
found his case no better than before. Against that stone 
wall of evidence no power at his disposal could make one 
inch of progress. 

The State's case now being concluded, Keene made the 
usual formal motion for a dismissal of the indictment. 
Grossmith denied this with equal formality, and witnesses 
for the defense were now called. 

The testimony for the defense, pitiably weak, took no 
great time. Keene had decided to withdraw any general 
evidence as to Arthur's previous good character, as now 
being valueless. It might, his legal wisdom told him, even 
prejudice the jury by making them think the boy a hypocrit- 
ical and underhanded villain. Practically the whole defense 
rested with Mrs. Johansen's statement and the boy's own 
story; for Arthur had insisted on taking the stand in his 
own behalf. 

Mrs. Johansen testified that on the night of the murder 
Arthur had been in his room. At just what hour he had 
come in, she could not swear; she thought it was about 3 
A. M. Under Keene's gentle leading — for she was a simple 
soul and much abashed — she told her tale, ending with a 
little exordium on Arthur's being " the best boy in the world. 



THE BITTER FIGHT 171 

your Honor, and so kind to me I just know he couldn't ha' 
done It 1" 

Ainslow smiled contemptuously and proceeded to entangle 
her to such an extent that she finally went to pieces and 
could not be sure of anything. She had not seen Arthur 
at all, it developed, but had only heard somebody in the room 
at an uncertain hour. 

" That will be all, thank you," smiled the district attorney, 
dismissing her while the effect of this admission was still 
fresh upon the jury. Keene's re-direct examination failed 
to brace her testimony into anything like coherent strength. 

Arthur himself now took the stand, bloodless but very 
cool; and, being sworn, told a straight story. Interest be- 
came breathless. Enid in particular hung on every word 
with intense eagerness. 

Every look, every gesture of hers spoke absolute faith in 
him. Twice or thrice their eyes met with a calm look of 
mutual love and trust and faith. 

The boy narrated everything without evasion, subterfuge 
or exaggeration : his misstep in having stolen the one thou- 
sand two hundred and fifty dollars, his desperation, and his 
visit to Slayton. 

" Yes, I admit I stole," said he. " You all know why now. 
It was to protect my father and keep him out of the peniten- 
tiary. He's dead now, and everything about his — mistake 
— is known. I didn't manage to help him much, and I 
got into this trouble trying to. It doesn't matter that I'd 
have returned the money. This murder-charge is all that 
matters now. 

" I never did it, gentlemen. Never in this world. I'm 
absolutely innocent 1 " 

He spoke in a level, distinct tone that trembled hardly 
at all. His hands gripped the rail before him very 
tightly, but his look was clear and honest, his bearing manly 
and strong. The impression he created was favorable ; and 



■tf>«li^B»i 



17^ , THE ALIBI 

many a whispered word passed through the room, words of 
wonder that so black a murderer could seem so guiltless, 
words of pity that so splendid a young chap must shortly 
face the chair. 

" My trip to Mr. Slayton's house at Oakwood Heights was 
for the purpose of borrowing money to make good my 
theft," he continued. " It is true I took that gua with me. 
That was because if Mr. Slay ton refused to help me I was 
going to kill myself. 

" Mr. Slaytcm received me kindly. He promised to lend 
me enough to clear myself, and told me to see him at nine 
next morning and take an envelope he would hand me. 

" Before I understood his exact meaning I thought he was 
going to refuse me, and I drew the pistol. He took it away 
from me and put it in his desk-drawer. That's the last I 
ever saw of it until it was just now shown me here in this 
room again." 

Looks and murmurs of incredulity passed between the 
jurymen and through the audience. A pecuHar situation 
had arisen, in which all the perjuries being told seemed gos- 
pel truth, and the only truth bore every indication of being 
perjury. So absurdly false did Arthur's words appear that, 
save for Enid, not one person in all that room gave them the 
slightest faith or credence whatsoever. Yes, there was one 
other — Jarboe 1 

The old man, smirking, nodding, scratching his wen and 
otherwise manifesting every sign of intense satisfaction, sat 
there drinking in every word. 

He knew Arthur was telling the truth ; he knew the boy 
was innocent. In three minutes he could have demanded 
to testify, have been sworn, and given facts that would in- 
evitably have cleared Arthur and landed Slayton behind 
bars. But still he sat there saying nothing, volunteering no 
word or sign, listening or chuckling with Satan's own de- 
light. 



THE BITTER FIGHT 173 

Aye, delight and high rejoicing. For in Arthur's convic- 
tion and the lash of terror Jarboe could hold over Slayton, 
still at liberty, lay a clear thousand dollars income every 
month he clung to his sordid, unclean, greedy life. 

Dollars, dollars, dollars 1 For dollars old Jarboe kept his 
mouth shut. For dollars the one and only witness who 
could have saved the boy sat there with sealed lips, and, 
leering and mumbling to himself, watched a human life go 
down into the shadows, innocent yet convicted. 

Arthur glanced at the girl, took courage from her look of 
faith, and continued : 

" I went back to the city on the midnight train. When I 
got to South Ferry I took the subway to One Hundred and 
Tenth Street and walked straight to Mrs. Johansen's. I let 
myself in and spent the rest of the night in my room. It 
was about 3 a. m. when I got there. I was so upset and 
troubled that I couldn't sleep, but walked the floor. About 
four o'clock I lay down, dressed, on my bed, and after a 
while fell asleep. 

"I didn't wake up till eight. I remembered that Mr. 
Slayton had told me to see him at nine sharp. My time 
was mighty short, I saw. I didn't wait for anything, not 
even for breakfast, but hurried down-town. That accounts 
for my appearance being unnatural. I was hungry and 
tired, and I hadn't slept enough, and, of course, I was wor- 
ried, too. 

"The first thing I knew about the murder was when I 
bought a paper in the subway. Of course I knew then that 
all my plans and hopes of making good had been upset. I 
saw I was sure to be ruined. You can imagine my state of 
mind." 

Arthur paused a minute, drew a deep breath and glanced 
about the court-room, seeking a friendly face, perhaps, dnd 
finding not one — not one save Enid's. 

" The rest of it/' he continued, " is as the coroner has al- 



174 THE ALIBI 

ready told you, except that I didn't attack Mr. Slayton with 
any murderous motive in the directors' room. When I real- 
ized how he had deceived me and accused me falsely, I 
couldn't control myself. I struck him, gentlemen. It was 
wrong, I admit, but it was human. A man can endure only 
about so much. 

" I am guilty of some things, but not of the greatest thing 5 
not of the thing I'm on trial for now. I have stolen and I 
have committed an assault. For these offenses I am willing 
and glad to pay. But not for a crime I swear to you I 
never even thought of committing 1 Not for a crime I never 
came within a thousand miles of committing! " 

His voice, strengthening, began to ring with challenge. 
His eyes brightened. Into his cheek a little tinge of color 
once more crept back.* Enid, gazing at him with terrible 
eagerness, smiled slightly — a hopeful smile, a smile of con- 
fidence and trust. Her soul was vibrating with his every 
word. Surely when her boy was speaking truth, God's own 
truth, the very truth of truths, they must believe him ! 

" Gentlemen," said Arthur slowly, '* this is all I have to 
tell you. You have my story. It is true from end to end. 
That night I never even approached the bank. Had I gone 
there I couldn't have got in without a key, and I had none. 
At the hour of the murder I was in my room. 

" I know perfectly well you have seen and heard a tre- 
mendous mass of testimony against me. I know the circum- 
stances seem overwhelmingly against me. But still, truth 
is mighty. And the truth is that I am innocent. 

" All these things you have seen " — and he motioned to the 
exhibits now lying on the attorneys' table — "are only 
' plants,' gentlemen. They form part of a cleverly laid plot 
to convict me. As there is a heaven, I swear to you this is 
the living truth 1 

" The hands I hold out to you, appealing for justice, are 
free of human blood ! There is no guilt of murder on them. 



THE BITTER FIGHT 



175 



I ask you, gentlemen, to do me justice and to free me of 
this false and terrible charge ! 

" If you convict me here and now you will be convicting 
an innocent man I'* 



I 



p 



CHAPTER XIX 

THE VERDICT 

ALLID and trembling with the vehemence of his su- 
preme appeal, Arthur now had to face the cynical 
smile and coldly dangerous incisiveness of Ainslow's 
cross-examination. True though his story was, inside of 
five minutes Ainslow had forced him into several contradic- 
tions, on which the district attorney dilated with telling ef- 
fect. 

Before this attack Arthur's narrative soon was riddled. 
Ainslow added to the force of his assault by making it short. 
His air said plainly: 

" Gentlemen, there is no use in wasting your time on 
trivialities such as these ! " 

The way in which he dismissed the boy with a " That's 
quite enough, thank you/' and the grim smile on his lips, 
spoke volumes. 

Keene subjected Arthur to a few minutes of re-direct 

examination, with the hope of strengthening the defense. 

To this Ainslow did not even deign to reply with any re- 

flj cross-examination. This created a favorable impression 

for the State, and damaged Arthur considerably. 

Quite exhausted, Arthur stepped down from the witness- 
stand and resumed his seat beside his counsel. Keene nod- 
ded reassuringly to him, but it was plain to see the lawyer 
felt that his client had not driven the truth of the story 
home. Arthur had had his chance and had failed to make 
good. Against the mass of evidence condemning him his 
story had fallen as ineffective as a broadside of piAs against 
a dreadnought. 

Yet Enid seemed to think the case won. Her dark eyes, 

176 



THE VERDICT 177 

going from Arthur's face to the stem, set faces of the 
twelve men in whose hands now lay her boy's life, no longer 
pleaded. They commanded, rather. They seemed to say: 

" Now you have heard the truth, set him free ! " 

Keene, tired-looking and worn out, failed even to hold 
the attention of the jury in the final summing-up for the 
defense. Anybody with half an eye could see that the ver- 
dict was already formulated in the minds of these twelve 
men, and that the only problem now remaining was : 

"What degree?" 

The audience began manifesting impatience. Some dis- 
turbance, as two or three men tried to leave the room, fur- 
ther destroyed whatever effect Keene's words might have 
had. The jurors, tired out and hungering for nicotine, fid- 
geted as he addressed them. Hainly they were longing to 
get up and stretch their legs ; to leave the stifling, crowded 
place and reach the comparative freedom of the jury-room; 
to light tobacco, free their tongues in discussion, and come 
down to the business of Life vs. Death. 

Keene, noting all this, cut his address short, but threw 
into it all the power now left in him. 

" Gentlemen, I solemnly adjure you," he concluded, " not 
to throw away or jeopard a human life merely because of 
prejudice or indolence of thought or through circumstantial 
evidence. Legal history is crammed with cases of innocent 
men done to death on circumstantial evidence. Beware of 
trusting to its fallacies ! " 

Here Juror Ellis yawned and Foreman Crowther glanced 
impatiently at the clock. 

" Gentlemen I The evidence has demonstrated that my 
client did not even approach the bank on the night of the 
crime ; that he spent the hours in question in his room ; and 
that the real criminal, by juggling certain matters, has man- 
aged to lay the blame upon a man innocent as you, or you, 
or II 



178 THE ALIBI 

" Not one scintilla of real proof exists against the defend- 
ant. One of the most vital pieces of evidence, the white 
hairs found in the victim's grasp, has never been explained 
by the State. No theory has been advanced to account for 
this fact, which would infallibly give us the real clue to the 
murderer." 

" The real clue ! Aye, the real clue ! " muttered Jarboe, 
fixing malevolent eyes on Slayton under the glare of the 
incandescents. "The real duel Hear, hearl" 

Slayton, seeming to sense his gibe, turned fearful eyes 
toward the filthy little Shylock. Despite every effort the 
cashier was sweating and shivering. It was not yet too late 
for Jarboe to spring a coup — not yet, not yet I 

"Gentlemen I" cried Keene in peroration. "The de- 
fendant is innocent under the law until proven guilty. You 
understand? Not assumed guilty, but proven! I solemnly 
call you to witness the fact that no adequate proof has been 
adduced. You have heard assumption and inference, but 
no proof. All the proof in this case lies on the side of the 
defendant. He is an innocent man, and I adjure you to 
acquit him. Truth is mighty and will prevail ! " 

He finished with an assumption of intense emotion — 
mercenary emotion, wholly unreal and quite incapable of 
touching men's hearts, even were those men not restless and 
impatient like the jurors. But to Enid his words were balm 
and manna. They cried to her : 

" Salvation 1 " 

Her spirits had quickly revived under their stimulus ; and 
now she could almost find heart to smile through all her 
grief and fear. 

Again her eyes met Arthur's. The boy's lips silently 
formed three words : 

" I am innocent ! " 

Hers answered : 

"IknowitI" 



THE VERDICT 179 

And their look, each at each, pledged faith and trust and 
love in whatever joy or pain still awaited its fulfillment, 
even " the narrow Gates of Darkness through." 

Ainslow now rose to sum up for the State. This he did 
with less than his usual energy. His voice, look and man- 
ner all asked with supremely effective art : 

" Why waste strength on a case already won ? " 

Qearly, but with rather perfunctory brevity, he restated 
the facts already made known and proved. He admitted 
the circumstantial character of most of the evidence, but 
remarked that in some cases such evidence amounted to a 
positive certainty. He ridiculed Keene's assertion that the 
boy could not have entered the bank. 

" A criminal, gentlemen of the jury," said he, " who could 
show sufficient foresight, skill and coolness to conduct an 
affair like this — even in the wearing of gloves, the at- 
tempted planting of evidence on a fellow clerk, the manner 
in which he brought a chair and sat down by the body to 
study out his plan of escape — *' 

" It's a lie ! " shouted Arthur, springing up, unable to con- 
trol himself. " A lie, I tell you 1 I never even — " 

Grossmith pounded furiously with his gavel. 

" Order I Order in this court ! " he commanded. 

Arthur subsided under this command and Keene's vehe- 
ment admonitions. Presently, when quiet had been re- 
stored, Ainslow resumed : 

" Even in the manner in which he destroyed the pages of 
the ledger, bearing records of the thousand-dollar bills 
stolen, he showed himself a shrewd, clever criminal. He 
went so far, gentlemen, as to put on rubbers, lest his foot- 
prints might betray him. He attacked and killed a feeble, 
harmless and unarmed old man in the discharge of his duty. 
This crime, as I have reconstructed it for you, proves the 
defendant to have been a most conscienceless^ astute and cal- 
culating murderer." 



^1 



i8o THE ALIBI 

He levied his forefinger at Arthur. 

" Most conscienceless, astute and calculating/' he repeated 
impressively. " And yet he and his counsel ask you to be- 
lieve he could — not — have — entered — the — bank ! " 

Snapping his fingers, he dismissed the idea as an absurd- 
ity. One or two jurors nodded. Evidently the point had 
gone home. 

Ainslow then tore to shreds the feeble alibi Arthur had 
attempted to establish. It rested only on his own testimony 
and that of an infirm landlady, none too intelligent. When 
the district attorney had finished with it only a sorry rag 
remained, not enough to protect Arthur for an instant from 
the chill winds of fate now blowing keen against his de^ 
fenselessness. 

The approving public smiled and nodded, looking hate, 
scorn and vengeance against the boy. Slayton, blue about 
the mouth, kept a stony impassiveness. Old Jarboe rubbed 
his hands and chuckled. Chamberlain sat there erect and 
grim, stoic in his coolness. To his arm clung Enid. With 
all her confidence and hope now torn away, wide-eyed and 
anguished, she watched this man Ainslow murdering her 
boy's hopes as if he had been dipping his hands veritably in 
Arthur's blood. 

" I ask you, gentlemen of the jury, for justice," concluded 
Ainslow. ** Not vengeance, but impartial, even-handed jus- 
tice. You have the facts. They are absolutely conclusive. 
We are not persecuting this man. We are merely protect- 
ing society. We are impartially meting out that which 
should and must be meted out. 

"Fiat justitia, mat coelum! Let justice be done, though 
the heavens fall ! " 

He kept a moment's impressive silence, looking the jury- 
men fair in the face, his eyes going from one to another as 
if driving home the imperative demand. Then, bowing, he 



THE VERDICT i8i 

sat down, his work at an end. And Judge Grossmith's 
. gavel, backed by all the available court officers, hardly more 
than sufficed to quell the applause. 

When he had restored order, Grossmith fixed his specta- 
cled gaze on the jury, and began delivering his charge. 

He dwelt at some length on the nature and value of evi- 
dence, direct and circumstantial; described the various de- 
grees of murder and warned the jurors of the solemnity of 
their duty. Having covered all the necessary points of law, 
he ended with : 

" You have now heard all the evidence pro and contra. 
On this, and on nothing else whatever, you must bring in 
your verdict. Remember, gentlemen, you can acquit or you 
can convict of murder in the first, second, or third degree. 

"Remember also, first degree involves premeditation — 
an act done in cold blood without the extenuation of self- 
defense or sudden passion. Take this into consideration 
in your verdict, and also the fact that the evidence is almost 
wholly circumstantial. 

" Let your verdict express your firm conviction, not 
reached in the heat of argument and strife, but calmly, de- 
liberately and dispassionately, in a spirit of complete, impar- 
tial and immutable justice. 

" Gentlemen, you will now retire for deliberation." 

The jury, thus dismissed, withdrew, taking with them the 
grim exhibits, relics of the crime. Arthur, with one last 
look at Enid, was led away by two officers to his cell, there 
to suffer the racking torments of suspense — anguish beyond 
all words — anguish which Enid, too, was destined to en- 
dure, waiting with her father in Grossmith's private cham- 
bers as the judge's guest. 

The audience now thinned out; the corridors emptied 
themselves ; the reporters and artists took themselves off to 



i82 THE ALIBI 

work their material into shape. A few spectators still lin- 
gered wearily on the benches, determined to make an all- 
night session of it if need were. 

Among these was old Jarboe. Though Slayton had de- 
parted, obviously quite at the end of all his strength, the im- 
clean, usurious bird of prey sat there buzzard-like. Mum- 
bling to himself, brooding, pondering, he remained on watch. 
Ominous and enigmatic, he waited. 

What meant that glitter in his eye? What was the old 
man thinking now? What was he planning? 

Nine o'clock came and went, and ten, and eleven. Still 
no verdict. 

What was taking place there inside that locked door of 
inviolable secrets? What battles of circumstantial evidence, 
of reasonable doubt, of mercy, of prejudice, of vindictive- 
ness, were being fought out there with bitter argument amid 
tobacco-smdce, excited words, the waving of fists, and all 
the most violent passions of men in strife of principle and 
strong determination? 

What ballots had been taken and were being taken? 
How was the tide of conflict turning? None outside knew ; 
none might ever know any but the one final, vital, crucial 
thing — the verdict I 

Thus passed the hours of that night — anguishing, soul- 
destroying hours, hours of agony for Enid and the boy, 
hours of torment. 

And suddenly, at eleven forty-two, word came out of that 
sealed place — word of decision — word of terrible hope 
and fear — word of supremest tension: We have reached 
a verdict! 

Interest and excitement quickly revived. The benches 
began to fill again. The opposing lawyers returned. Tele- 
phone messages began to draw crowds of spectators and 
reporters, each newspaperman eager to get the verdict first 
to his own waiting sheet A buzz and hum of life once 



THE VERDICT 183 

more filled the corridors and the sad room of human hopes 
and fears. 

The jury now entered. Grimly and in silence the twelve 
men filed into the box, knowing the secret of the boy's fate, 
which they had sealed and now held in their hands. Judge 
Grossmith came in from his chambers, still robed and 
gravely impassive. 

Chamberlain supported Enid, who clung to his arm, 
plainly on the ragged edge of collapse. Her pallor was ex- 
treme. Her big, dark eyes were undershadowed by marks 
that seemed bruises on the white flesh. 

Now Arthur appeared, led in by two officers as the jury- 
men and judge sat down. He, too, was very pale; but his 
eyes looked bravely at the girl, and on his bloodless lips a 
smile managed to hold itself — a smile she tried to give him 
back, and failed. 

Arthur sat down near Keene, a guard on either hand. 
The clerk of the court, who had entered before Grossmith 
and had been fumbling over some loose papers, turned 
toward the jury-box. He fixed his eyes on the face of 
Crowther, foreman of the jury. 

Listening with intense eagerness, old Jarboe leaned a lit- 
tle forward and gnawed at his crooked fingers, his eyes 
strangely gleaming. Still there remained time for him to 
speak. At this last moment, on the verge of Fate, what 
might he not still do? 

Enid, trembling violently, hid her face in both hands and 
shuddered against her father's breast. The old man sooth- 
ingly drew his arm about her, patting her shoulder as if she 
had been only a little child. 

The clerk coughed slightly. 

" Gentlemen of the jury," said he, " have you reached a 
verdict?" 

Crowtfier nodded as he stood up. 

" We have," he answered in a tense, hoarse voice. 



i84 



THE ALIBI 



The pause that followed, though but a second, seemed an 
eternity to Enid and the prisoner. 

" Prisoner at the bar/' said the clerk, " stand up and look 
upon the jurors." 

Arthur arose and stared at the foreman with terrible in- 
tensity, both hands clenched, jaw set hard, holding himself 
together by sheer force of will. Old Chamberlain's arm 
tightened about his daughter. A rigid tension of silence 
held the room. 

The clerk asked : 

" What is your verdict, gentlemen? " 

All the jurors stood up. Their faces for the most part 
showed pitiless and hard. One or two, however, glanced 
compassionately at the boy. 

" What is your verdict? " 

"Your Honor," answered Crowther, the foreman, ad- 
dressing the Court, " we find the prisoner guilty of murder 
in the second degree." 

Jarboe's blinking eyes never for a second quitted Crow- 
ther's face. His lips moved slightly. He seemed prepar- 
ing to speak. On him Slayton fixed a gaze of shrinking, 
appealing terror, which the old man did not notice. 



M 



CHAPTER XX 

NUMBER 3265 

**T^ ^URDER in the second degree!" 

As the words died to silence in the musty 
court-room Judge Grossmith struck the bench 
with his knuckles. 

" Remanded for sentence January 4," said he. " Gentle- 
men, you are hereby discharged. Accept the thanks of the 
Court." 

Jarboe nodded grimly and leered at Slayton, who sank 
back deathly pale with a gasp of relief. Enid, crying, 
" Arthur 1 Arthur!" tried to struggle up, but her father's 
arm restrained her. 

" No, no, Enid ! " he implored in a whisper. " No scene 
here — no scene 1 " 

" Come on, you ! " ordered one of the guards, clapping a 
hand on Arthur's shoulder as the boy sat there too dazed 
even to stand up. " Come along, now ! " 

Arthur's eyes met the girl's a moment; but they seemed 
to see nothing, to understand nothing. Enid through all 
her anguish felt a numbing chill. Already the impassable 
gulf was yawning between them. Already the shadows of 
the penitentiary, now opening for this man — a living tomb 
that nevermore might let him go — had irrevocably fallen 
on them both. 

The court-room seemed to whirl, to circle round and 
round her. Everything looked black and spinning. Where 
was Arthur? What were they doing to her boy? 

" Arthur ! " she cried again. " Arthur ! " 

18s 



■i 



i86 THE ALIBI 

She saw him now. The clerk had taken his pedigree, and 
the officers were leading him away. He did not look back, 
but shuffled between his guards, one of whom dangled hand- 
cuffs. Bright high-lights glinted from the steel of those 
handcuffs. She saw them dance and waver fancifully. 

Unsteadily she put out her hand. 

" Father 1 " she pleaded. " It's a lie — a lie I " 

He gathered her close. 

" S-h-h-h-h, Enid 1 There, there, there I " 

A door closed with hollow echoings. Arthur was gone. 

Already as the jurors were filing out of their box, Keene 
had risen to his feet, a sheaf of papers in hand. 

"Your Honor," he exclaimed, raising a long forefinger 
at Grossmith, now already preparing to leave the bench, 
" I apply for a writ of error in re the — " 

" The motion will be heard on December 24." 

Keene nodded, the judge withdrew, and the spectators 
began to disperse. Jurors and all, relieved, hunched on 
their overcoats, put on their hats, and scattered down the 
corridor, where fragmentary conversations formed and dis- 
solved and drifted away in scraps of comment, speculation, 
criticism or approval. 

Reporters hastened to telephone-booths, eager to rush 
the news to their papers. One or two bolder spirits among 
them, essaying to pick a little forbidden fruit by interview- 
ing jurors, and hoping for some information on the wrangle 
that had taken place in the jury-room, were driven away 
by officers. In a few minutes the verdict would be whirl- 
ing through the rotary presses of huge newspapers ; and in 
the morning all New York, all the world, would know that 
Arthur Mansfield, fiance of Banker Chamberlain's daughter, 
had been duly convicted of murder in the second degree 
for having killed Watchman Mackenzie. 

The most sensational murder trial of the year was at an 
end. 



NUMBER 3265 187 

Keene, the head of Mansfield's staff of counsel, stuffed 
law-books, briefs and papers into his green baize bag and 
pulled the tape. Then he turned to Chamberlain. The 
look that passed between the two men, and the gesture of 
helplessness the lawyer made, spoke volumes. 

"If I'd had anything — anything at all to go on," said 
Keene in a low voice — " anything at all, you know — " 

" I understand completely," answered the banker, nod- 
ding. 

" Impossible situation," added Keene. 

Slayton, hesitating, approached the group; then felt his 
nerve desert him and retreated into the corridor, followed 
by old Jarboe, who was chuckling and rubbing his hands 
together. 

" Quite impossible," Keene went on. " Of course, 
I'll take all possible legal steps to secure a new trial; 
but—" 

Enid looked up at him. She had grown calm again. 
The temporary weakness had passed. 

" Next time you'll win," she declared with splendid op- 
timism. " You'll win, and he'll go free. They can't, can't, 
can*t give an innocent man a life sentence and make him 
serve it ! " 

Keene bowed, deftly avoiding any possibility of argu- 
ment. 

" My dear Miss Chamberlain," he answered, " believe me 
when I say every possible means will be employed to have 
this verdict reversed. But I must warn you not to enter- 
tain any false hopes. All that can be done shall be. But 
still you mustn't build any air-castles just yet." 

She managed to smile wanly with a supreme and im- 
shakable faith. 

" I'm not afraid," she declared. " Arthur's an innocent 
man, and justice shall be done some day." 

An electric switch snapped. Some of the lights in the 



i88 THE ALIBI 

court room died. An attendant was clearing the room of 
the last few idlers and curiosity-seekers. 

"Come, Enid," bade her father. "There's nothing to 
be gained now by staying here any longer. It's long past 
midnight. Let's go home." 

Together all three left the building. A few minutes later 
father and daughter were whirling up-town in their limou- 
sine. Sunk far back in a corner of the cushions, Enid kept 
silence. Arthur's stunned and uncomprehending face rose 
constantly before her. A fine, sifting snow had begun to 
fall, shimmering in moving whiteness round the electric 
lights of the car and the street-lamps that swiftly flitted 
backward and away. Its swirls seemed to be weaving a 
cold white veil between that face and her. 

On the 24th of December at 10.30 a. m. Keene's writ of 
error, asking a new trial, was heard by Judge Grossmith. 
His Honor carefully and honestly examined into the mat- 
ter with perfect impartiality and no bias whatsoever, view- 
ing merely the legal aspects of the case. 

After due consideration he decided that all had been done 
quite regularly and in order, according to the strictest inter- 
pretation of the law, and that no error whatsoever existed 
at any point of the procedure. He, therefore, denied the 
writ. 

Enid, apprised of this fact, smiled bravely and bade Keene 
go on fighting, at all expense. The girl had grown notably 
thinner ; she had lost her fine, vigorous color ; but her blue- 
black eyes still held true and steady with brave confidence. 
A thoroughbred, she had not yet even begun to fight. None 
of her father's pleadings had yet been able to make her 
leave the city, go South, West, anywhere to get away from 
the case. 

"No," she would always answer. "Arthur needs me 
here. Without me he*d be lost. Do you think Edward 



NUMBER 3265 189 

Chamberlain's daughter could be happy at Palm Beach or 
Santa Monica, or even at Nice or Cannes, while he sits all 
alone under the shadow?" 

Sentence was passed on Arthur the morning of Thurs- 
day, January 4. Only a few reporters and casual visitors 
were present to hear the words of doom pronounced against 
him. Convicted and disposed of, Arthur had ceased to be 
even a good news-feature. 

Enid was not there. At Arthur's urgent plea she ab- 
sented herself. This ordeal, useless from any standpoint, 
was spared her. Alone at home she spent a day of shud- 
dering prostration, her imagination making the scene a hun- 
dredfold more terrible to her than the reality. 

Arthur came up with a batch of eight others who were 
slated for sentence on various convictions. Except Keene, 
he had no support through this terrible hour. Slayton's 
lantern-jawed face was to be seen, eager and furtive, as the 
cashier listened with terrible intensity on one of the back 
benches; but Arthur, after one look at this hated visage, 
steadfastly kept his eyes away from it. 

The whole affair was businesslike, and took only a little 
time, that dark and misty winter morning. Three others 
were sentenced before Arthur himself. 

This helped break the shock of it a little. Nevertheless, 
when the clerk called " Arthur Mansfield 1 " in a toneless 
voice and the boy knew his hour had struck, a sinking weak- 
ness possessed his body. He could barely manage to stand 
up and face the raven-like countenance of Grossmith on 
the bench. 

Arthur had grown emaciated already. His face had be- 
gun to assume the sallow, unhealthy pallor that always fol- 
lows the most barbarous of all human inventions — the con- 
finement of a htmian being in a cage of steel. 

Judge Grossmith peered sharply through his spectacles 



190 THE ALIBI 

at the boy, standing there with both hands on the railing in 
front of the bench. 

" Have you anything to say why sentence should not be 
pronounced upon you?" asked the judge in routine form. 

" No, your Honor," the boy managed to answer huskily. 

His lips and tongue were parched as with a fever. 

In this reply he was acting under Keene's instructions. 
It would be worse than useless now for him to speak or 
plead his cause. Whatever could be done would be in due 
legal course. 

The judge coughed dryly, glanced at his memoranda to 
refresh his memory of the case — for really he heard so 
very, very many — and then raised his eyes to Arthur's 
face. 

" Mansfield," said he, ** this crime of which you stand 
convicted seems to be one of particular atrociousness. The 
fact that the evidence was all circumstantial defeated the 
rendering of a verdict of murder in the first degree, whereby 
the ends of justice would have been better served. The 
verdict is of murder in the second degree, and the penalty 
is mandatory. I regret that I cannot exceed its provisions. 

" It is now here by this court ordered, and the sentence 
of the court is, that you be imprisoned at hard labor in the 
penitentiary of the State of New York at Sing Sing for 
the term of your natural life." 

The judge ceased with a severe contraction of the lips. 
Arthur made no sound, no sign, no move. His hands 
tightened a little on the rail, perhaps ; but he still stood there 
firmly enough. His eyes, however, seemed to behold noth- 
ing; nor did he sit down again as he should. One of the of- 
ficers had to tap him on the shoulder and motion him to a 
chair. 

He sat down then, mechanically and stiffly, licked his lips 
once or twice, and then stared straight in front of him, al- 
most indiflFerently. Those who had perhaps expected acute 



NUMBER 3265 191 

emotions in the boy, a heart-rending appeal, a dramatic 
scene to furnish forth a write-up, were disappointed. Ar- 
thur had proved undeniably tame. 

The clerk entered the sentence in due and proper forn^, 
and the next prisoner stood up to hear his words of fate. 
Arthur sat there quietly until summoned to return to his 
cell. The world already was retreating from him — the 
living world of men and women, the world of freedom, 
light, and life. He stood now on the portals of a world of 
shadows, steel-barred; of gray, dim, silent figures; of end- 
less drudgery and pain eternal. 

Soon he must pass that portal, over which Dante's " All 
hope abandon, ye who enter here " should be graven for so 
many. Soon, with only the backward look of yearnings 
that availed not, he must leave the real world, where sun- 
light was and love and laughter ; where men labored for re- 
ward and found rest sweet; where achievement beckoned 
and the promises of better things lightened the burdens of 
the way. He must leave that world — not through swift 
and merciful death, but through the clangor of steel bar- 
riers in a place of horror where 

Never a human voice comes near 

To speak a gentle word, 

And the eye that watches through the door 

Is pitiless and hard, 

And by all forgot, men rot and rot, 

With soul and body marred. 

That same afternoon at four-fifteen Arthur bade New 
York good-by. His going was a horrible and shameful 
thing. Clean, strong, innocent, they hauled him through 
the streets in a black, barred motor-van with eleven other 
wretched men — hauled him through some of the very 
highways where only a few weeks ago Enid and he had rid- 
den in Chamberlain's "Lormont Six." Handcuffed to a 



192 THE ALIBI 

swart Portuguese wife-murderer, they herded him through 
the Grand Central to the train. 

Even 'though he was spared the anguish of passing 
through the spacious waiting-room and the concourse, the 
ordeal of undergoing public observation in the side entrance 
and along the platform to the smoker left him sick and 
shaken. Keene appeared before the train left, and with 
perfunctory words of hope said good-by to him. 

But even the privilege of a handclasp was forbidden now. 
The State had laid its penalty upon him. It dared not risk 
the danger that some kinder agency might put the nepenthe 
of a merciful poison in his grasp. 

Huddled in the seat with the wife-murderer, Arthur made 
the horrible trip up the river, numbed with the ghastliness 
of this thing which must be a nightmare, which could not be 
real, could not be truly happening to him. 

River and Palisades, white sail and plowing steamer, for- 
est and town and sky all beckoned : 

" Come away, come away!** 

The roaring car-wheels clattered their antiphony : 

"Never, never, never any morel Any more, any more, 
any morel Never any morel" 

Though thoughts and love of Enid strove for entrance in 
his soul, he put them all away from him, for now the an- 
guish of them passed the limit of his strength. Never any 
more such happiness for him! All things, save frightful 
things, were fading from him wholly. All that makes glad 
the soul of man, all that blesses, all that strengthens through 
the very stress and toil of attainment, all, everything had 
vanished in a phantasmagoria of hideous woes. 

"At hard labor for the term of your natural life! " 

It stunned, deadened, killed. 

Night found him nameless, caged, crushed. At last the 
ultimate blow of fate had fallen. He was a "lifer" in 



NUMBER 3265 193 

Sing Sing. He had become only a numbered thing — a 
man no longer, but just " 3265 " — with shaven head, with 
horrible striped garb of black and gray, with felt slippers 
noiseless on the chill cement. 

A shelf, a greasy bunk, walls of rough stone, a steel- 
barred door, to which was chained a rusty tin cup — be- 
hold now his home till death. A cage in the cell-house, not 
even windowed through an outer wall, so that he might 
sometimes see " the little tent of blue which prisoners call 
the sky," but a cell facing a solid stone wall eight feet away, 
where in all the ninety years of the prison's existence the 
sun had never entered; a cell where madness might attack 
and death release him, but from which, alive and sound, he 
should be freed now nevermore. 

Life was done. Love was past and gone. It must be 
put away and quite forgotten. What had they, or thoughts 
of liberty, to do in that pestilential hole? 

The first night of his death-in-life, his living burial in the 
tomb " where some grow mad and all grow bad, and none 
a word may say," he huddled upon his foul-smelling bunk, 
listening to the melancholy prison sounds — hollow foot- 
steps of warders, vague echoings of meaningless words, 
clankings of metal — and knew that something was gone 
from him that never could return — trust in the majesty and 
righteousness of Law. 

A little gleam of hope burned, flickering, vaguely in the 
prison night — hope that, perhaps, somehow, some time, 
appeals might yet avail and justice be done. But this gleam 
proved transitory. Arthur was still too sane for any further 
self-delusion. Having once felt the annihilating fist of 
" Justice," and staggered beneath its blow, he could no longer 
count on any reversal of the verdict. 

And if pardoned, what then? Freedom — with that hid- 
eous blot upon his name? Freedom — with that guilt still 
branded on his brow? 



194 THE ALIBI 

No I Not freedom I Better a thousand times* the stifling 
seclusion of the cell than that. The Law had pressed the 

« 

brand upon his forehead. Nothing could ever make him 
whole again. 

He thought of Enid and his mother then in those first 
hours, bitterer far than death ; and his soul was calling out 
to them, even though his body lay upon the prison bunk, 
in the cell malodorous of stived breath and sweat and car- 
bolic. 

There he lay, his wan face buried in his crossed arms, 
his fingers clutching the coarse gray blanket, his shaven 
head grotesque and hideous in the dim light from the gal- 
lery. Twice as he lay so, a silent-footed warder peered 
through the grated door at him, but spoke no word and made 
no sign. 

Nothing now outwardly distinguished the boy from the 
seventeen hundred other wretches crowding that sad place. 
The unusual strength and fineness of his body had quite 
vanished, swallowed by that horrible prison dress. A con- 
vict among convicts he had become, stamped already with 
the marks of that vile servitude wherewith man, " reform- 
ing " his brother, first degrades and brutalizes him. 

After a certain while he grew more calm. Then it seemed 
to him — as in the Tombs — that Enid, the faithful, was 
with him, saying: 

" I will believe you, Arthur ; always believe and trust 
you — and I will be true ! " 

And then his mother stood beside him, her hand upon 
his striped, degraded shoulder, saying: 

"Yea, though I walk in the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I 
will fear no evil!" 

Thus, sleeping not, Arthur lay that night, keeping vigil 
with his soul. 



CHAPTER XXI 

A POISONED SPIRIT 

THE Appellate Division of the Supreme Court up- 
held the verdict on February lo. One month later 
the Court of Appeals at Albany refused to grant a 
new trial. 'On June 6 a petition for a pardon was pre- 
sented id Governor Mclntyre and the Board of Pardons. 
A fortnight later, after due consideration, it was rejected. 
Ever3rthing had now been done that could be done. Every 
means had been exhausted. The ultimate expedient at 
large cost had been tried and had failed. The sentence 
stood irrevocably confirmed. 
Arthur's fate had now been definitely pronounced: 
" Imprisonment at hard labor for life in Sing Sing." 
Only one vague hope still lingered. With the induction of 
a new governor in eight months a new petition could be 
presented. Should this fail it could be handed every two 
years to each new governor. Tenuous and tedious as this 
hope might be, nothing else remained. 

Buried alive, " mugged," and Bertillioned, Nimiber 3265 
— a human being whose personality had been lost in four 
figures — took his place as one cog in the vast factory of 
woe up the Hudson. They set him to making shoes with 
some scores of silent, morose and broken men with clipped 
heads and furtive eyes. His respectful request for clerical 
work they refused. Already they had too many convicts on 
such jobs. Later, perhaps, if he proved trustworthy — 

Number 3265 pondered constantly. He thought as never 
before. Day by day and week by week he reviewed the past, 

X95 



196 THE ALIBI 

analyzed the present and tried to organize his plans for the 
future — a future that never for one moment lost sight of 
Enid Chamberlain. 

After a short period of absolute, numb despair, which re- 
jected food and sleep and everything, the natural buoyancy 
of youth and strength b^;an to reassert itself. Hope re- 
vived. Sanity returned, and purpose and some degree of 
calm. The boy realized that health must first of all be pre- 
served. Without it all would be lost. 

He must keep as strong and clean as it was possible to 
keep. He must not smoke the vile prison weed. He must 
resist all temptations to lighten his pain with dope, as so high 
a percentage of the convicts did. He must avoid the vices 
common to all prisons and make the best of the vile prison 
fare. Penned in his cell — three feet four inches by six 
feet seven — he must invent and keep to a hard, regular 
system of calisthenics. 

So long as life remained there might still be some chance 
of rehabilitation. With admirable wisdom and strength of 
purpose Arthur undertook eveiy measure possible for his 
welfare. 

His mind, too, he realized, must be looked after. He be* 
gan taking from the prison library the best books it afforded, 
and started systematic reading. Two hours every evening 
until the lights went out in the cells he devoted to extending 
his education. He began writing for The Star of Hope, 
and volunteered for eveiy entertainment. The outlet of a 
minstrel-show or a little play afforded him infinite relief. 

Though not of a religious turn of mind, he enjoyed chapel. 
With hundreds of others, all in sad g^ay and black, all with 
shaven heads, he bawled hymns at the top of his lungs, and 
• found great physical and mental comfort therein. To be 
allowed to make a noise, even if only in chapel, was a stu- 
pendous privil^e. 

Up to the limit of his allowance he wrote to his mother — 



A POISONED SPIRIT 197 

now totally bedridden — to Enid, and to Sheridan, the ex- 
teller of the bank, who always had believed in his innocence, 
and received letters from them. The correspondence had 
to undergo the strictest censorship, but still it infinitely com- 
forted him. 

Poor Sheridan had only bad news to send. His stand 
in the case had practically blacklisted him. The best work 
he could find now was book-canvassing, and even that job 
was precarious. Arthur's heart ached at thought of the 
man's brave but wholly useless self-sacrifice for him. The 
mother's letters, and Enid's, brought love and cheer and 
hope. Neither woman doubted his innocence for a second ; 
neither one despaired of triumph and of liberty some time. 

Bit by bit through long nights of occasional insomnia, or 
bent over his " nigger-heel " in the shoe-shop, Arthur be- 
gan to piece together something of the truth in the case. 
Slayton occupied his mind extensively. Living the tragedy 
all over and over again, unnimibered times, he found the 
cashier looming ever larger as the one most sinister figure 
in the ghastly mock of justice that had forced this martyr- 
dom upon him. 

As yet he could not see the whole sequence clearly; but 
here an indication, there a hint, farther on a tiny gleam of 
probability all kept combining with more and ever more evi- 
dence to build a mass of wondering suspicion. As twigs 
and refuse collect above a dam, eventually spreading into 
a wide expanse of floating detritus, so now on the moving 
current of Number 3265's mind, checked by the barrier of 
that crime, the drifting indications one by one came to rest. 

Gradually conviction forced itself upon the boy. Grad- 
ually he seemed to understand the truth of that black deed, 
the essence of that frame-up, the general outlines of that 
plot which with incredible villainy had flung him here to 
agonize, to rot, to die. 

He saw again that room in Slayton's house at Oakwood 



198 THE ALIBI 

Heights and heard the promise spoken there. He recalled 
the treachery of the next morning, Slayton's false witness- 
ing, and all the damning evidence heaped up against him — 
by whose hand? 

Reason answered: 

Slayton's I 

Analysis clarified all. Bit by bit Arthur patched every- 
thing together ; and as conviction grew in him that Slayton 
was indeed the murderer — a murderer who with fiendish 
skill and malice had flung the guilt upon his shoulders — 
so hate grew likewise. 

Bit by bit he pieced together odds and ends of prison gos- 
sip and underworld information that in different ways fil- 
tered through to him ; and so he came to know the name of 
Jarboe and to gamer in vague, ill-defined rumors that this 
loan-shark had got a grip on Slayton as on so many more ; 
and this uncertain knowledge, too, helped the hypothesis his 
active brain was formulating. 

A wide clarity of understanding came to open out before 
the mind of Number 3265. An understanding that totaled 
positive certainty lighted the black horizons of his soul. 
The whole infernal villainy unrolled before him. He saw ; 
and, seeing, comprehended. 

At night sometimes he would give his poisoned soul over 
to loathing and to hate of this man, now safe from all ac- 
cusation, all danger, all attack — safe forever as Arthur 
thought with terrible despair. In the dusk of his cell, with 
face passion-distorted in a snarl of hatred, he would clutch 
his blanket with fingers that lusted to be at Slayton's throat, 
tearing the very life from that cold, false, murderous be- 
ing. 

And new ambitions dawned in him, new desires to live, 
fresh hopes that fanned the flame of his passion for freedom. 
One hope he came to cherish in particular above all others — 
the hope that he might some time go free and live to settle 



A POISONED SPIRIT 199 

this foul score once and forever, to pay this debt in full, 
to wipe it out, and look on the dead face of Walter Slayton 
— and laugh. 

Shortly after the Governor had refused the petition for 
a pardon, Slayton's supreme insolence led him to visit his 
victim in the sad place where 

Each day is like a year — 
A year whose days are long. 

Slayton's purpose in making this trip — like everything 
he did — was well and cautiously calculated. He figured 
that the act would redound to his credit. Arthur had ac- 
cused and assaulted him. He would do his Christian duty, 
that duty he was so fond of talking about, by returning good 
for evil and by heaping coals of fire on the head of this way- 
ward boy. 

Then, too, a kind of morbid curiosity possessed him to see 
the horrible place where — save for his own quick wits and 
diabolic skill — he himself would now be awaiting death. 
He wanted to behold the vicarious sacrifice, Arthur, paying 
the bitter price for the crime of hands still free. 

Last of all the cashier figured that Arthur might do or 
say something which could be heralded abroad with the ef- 
fect of still further proving his guilt, and thus rendering 
Slayton 's own position safer still. All this time the men- 
ace of old Jarboe had been gnawing at Slayton's withered 
soul as rats gnaw a moldy cheese. One look at the cashier's 
face revealed the wasting eflFects of that menace. 

Several times already he had paid the thousand-dollar 
" insurance premium " — as the repulsive Shylock insisted 
on calling it with cackling mirth that harrowed his being 
to its roots. He knew perfectly well now that Jarboe was 
in deadly earnest, and that a single defaulting of those pay- 
ments would mean accusation, scandal, perhaps fatal results. 
If by any possible means Slayton could more thoroughly 



200 THE ALIBI 

discredit the boy, more deeply involve him or ruin him 
more totally, the inevitable risks of the visit would be well 
worth while. 

A coward at heart, he assured himself no real danger 
could attach to the interview. Arthur behind bars could 
not possibly injure him. It would all be as safe as for a 
cat to watch a caged mouse. His ostensible motive would 
be to beg some confession about what Arthur had done 
with the stolen one hundred and fifty thousand dollars — a 
motive that Chamberlain very strongly approved. 

" By all means, my dear Slayton, do try to get some infor- 
mation from him on this point," old Chamberlain had said 
to him when he had mentioned his plan at the bank. 

The bank, by the way, had long since fallen into all its 
old ruts of quietude and peace. New tiles now replaced 
the blood-stained ones where Mackenzie — already in proc- 
ess of being forgotten — had fallen. A new clerk occupied 
Arthur's desk. Already the crime was retreating into the 
background, becoming a tradition in the history of the in- 
stitution. 

" Do by all means add your efforts to all that has been 
done to get some trace of those missing funds," repeated 
Chamberlain. " So far, as you know, not the slightest clue 
has been discovered." 

" Nothing whatever," answered the cashier, whose sal- 
ary, by the way, had been materially increased because of 
his courage and his services to the bank at the time of the 
murder. " Nothing whatsoever, Mr. Chamberlain. Per- 
haps I may have better luck than the — professional inves- 
tigators. At any rate, even though I fail, it is my manifest 
duty to try." 

" Quite so," assented Chamberlain. " I must admit I'm 
badly disappointed in the Securitas Agency. It seems to 
have signally failed in this case." 

" It does, indeed. I'm frank in telling you, Mr. Cham- 



A POISONED SPIRIT 201 

berlain, that I don't believe the money will ever be recov- 
ered unless Mansfield himself can be induced to reveal its 
whereabouts. Sharp, that boy was. Sharp, keen and 
clever. He must have hidden it somewhere in some extraor- 
dinarily secure place with the idea that he might yet es- 
cape and get it, or at least use it to buy some special favors 
— to have the case reopened or something of that sort." 

" Veiy likely, very likely," muttered the old banker wear- 
ily. " A sad, bad affair all through. Well, do the best you 
can, Slayton. Do the very best you can. I know you will, 
without being told. Your duty and devotion to the bank 
have been beyond all criticism. Some day, I hope, the in- 
stitution may suitably reward you." 

He shook his head with dejection, while the cashier, his 
crafty eyes blinking behind his glasses, eyed him with great 
satisfaction. It seemed hard to believe Chamberlain could 
have aged so rapidly in a few short months. The loss to the 
bank, his grief at Arthur's crime, and worry over Enid's 
prostration had brought him low indeed. 

" Go, by all means," reiterated the president, turning to 
his desk with a tired gesture. " Go, visit the unfortunate 
young man. Perhaps you can discover something. Point 
out to him that concealment can do him no good now, and 
that he can't expect to buy any favors whatever by offering 
the money as a bribe. Show him how the withholding of 
the sum in question is hampering the bank to a certain ex- 
tent, and must, therefore, indirectly react upon Enid. Ap- 
peal to his sense of honor — " 

Slayton laughed ironically. 

" If he has any left," the old man continued. " Appeal 
to his regard for Enid, though I hate to think of her name 
being mentioned to him again and spoken in that terrible 
place. Tiy to reach him in some way. 

"There must be something good left in the boy. God 
puts a little spark of the divine even in the most crimitiaJL 



202 



THE ALIBI 



breast You can possibly find it and kindle it to do a little 
right after so much wrong. Go, do your best with him 1 '* 
He dismissed Slayton with a nod. The cashier, saying 
no more, returned to his work. Next day he visited Sing 
Sing. 



CHAPTER XXII 

A VISIT AND A PROPHECY 

IT was on Sunday, July 3, that Walter Slayton with 
guile and malice in his heart repaired to the huge gray 
place of pain beside the smiling river. A hundred 
millions of Americans that day were preparing to celebrate 
Liberty. Slayton, worn and fearful as he was, with boding 
thoughts of Jarboe ever in the background of his mind, none 
the less felt a real elation as he made ready to celebrate 
Servitude. 

The thought of his victim, hived there in the vast, barren 
caravansary of anguish, brought a smile to his thin, straight 
lips as he came up the boardwalk near the prison. The grim 
entrance of the penitentiary filled him with exultation. Its 
very massiveness and all the ingenious safeguards thrown 
about the unhappy victims of an insane social system spoke 
to him of his own safety. Should Arthur ever go free, new 
and terrible perils would confront the cashier. But Arthur 
could never go free, and Jarboe was old — old — old 1 Ar- 
thur would remain buried alive, and Jarboe would die some 
time. In a few years at most all peril would be done for- 
ever. Patience and fortitude would win in spite of all. 

Self -congratulations mingled in the cashier's mind with 
brutal anticipation at the prospect of being able to triumph 
over the boy, and subtly sneer at him and torture him from 
a safe vantage-point outside steel bars. Like all cowards, 
this man possessed vast depths of cruelty. His soul lusted 
for the joy of taking vengeance on the man he had immo- 
lated — vengeance for the attack there in the directors* room 

203 



204 THE ALIBI 

at the bank. Slayton had not forgotten that moment. He 
had not forgotten the strength and precision of Arthur's 
blow, and never would he forget. 

Tlius a baleful joy came into his eyes as he stopped a min- 
ute in the clear July sunshine, peered up squintingly at the 
gigantic steel-and-granite pile, and realized that one peril at 
last was buried forever and forever without end. 

The sun sparkled on his patent-leather boots and on the 
silk top-hat he wore as he climbed the prison steps. It 
brought out the fine quality of his broadcloth coat and 
brightened the carnation in his buttonhole — the blossom 
whose fresh color contrasted so painfully with his claylike 
skin and lantern jaw. 

Since the crime Slayton's outward aspect had improved — 
so far as dress could improve it. Despite his obvious fall- 
ing off in health, he had now assumed a new importance. 
His prestige and his prospects, both increasing, had raised 
his social status. Could he be grooming for the presidency 
of the bank? 

Thinner than ever though he now was and somewhat aged 
in aspect, as some said his grief over the boy's misconduct 
had made him, the cashier none the less presented a fine, 
dignified figure of a man as he entered the office of the 
Pen. 

An automaton in uniform, to whom he stated his errand> 
respectfully asked him to sign the register and to be seated 
with some other visitors, all strained-looking and hushed 
and nervous. Two or three of that sad company on the 
benches were weeping, or had been. Nobody spoke a word. 
Presently a warder came in, dangling a ring with many 
keys, and nodded to Slayton. The cashier rose and fol- 
lowed. 

Steel doors creaked to admit him to inner places that were 
reached only by dint of much unlocking. Slayton, hat in 
hand, blinked with real interest at the cement floor, the 



A VISIT AND A PROPHECY 205 

stone walls, the guarding bars of steel — the kind of inter- 
est we all feel in prisons — the morbidity that whispers : 

"Whatif/ were here?" 

Presently the warder ushered him into a reception-room 
provided with a double grating down the middle. The 
grills were six feet apart. A momentary illusion came 
upon the cashier. He seemed to stand again in that grilled 
corridor in the bank. Gloom shrouded ever3rthing. Before 
him lay a prostrate and distorted figure — a figure whose 
bleared, dead eyes stared up at him. 

Swearing beneath his breath, Sla)rton recoiled. He felt 
a touch upon his arm, whirled round, and clenched his fist. 
The warder, saluting, looked at him with astonishment. 

"What's the matter, sir?" he demanded. 

" Oh, nothing, nothing 1 Here — thanks ever so much I " 

And the cashier slid a " V " into the officiars hand. 

"I — I'm a bit agitated, that's all. Dear friend of mine, 
very. He's coming soon? " 

" Right here now, sir. Thank you, sir I " 

He motioned toward the other side of the double grill. 
Slayton, still badly shaken, peered through the cage. He 
felt a certain tightening of the heart. His breath caught; 
both hands clutched the steel netting. 

Within, a convict was standing. A convict — the con- 
vict The boy that he himself, Walter Slayton, had put 
there for the term of his natural life. 

At first Slayton could hardly recognize him. The clipped 
head, the formless striped clothing, the wan and yellowed 
face — already tinged with the unmistakable marks of prison 
pallor — had changed Arthur almost beyond recognition. 
Mental anguish, wretched food, lack of exercise, and the 
deprivation of light and air had all taken their toll of him. 

But his shoulders were still erect and strong. The fine, 
broad brows had not altered. The wide-set eyes, though 
stinken, were still the same. No, not quite — for now as 



2o6 THE ALIBI 

they peered out at Sla3rton, standing there immaculate and 
trim, they glowered with a light the cashier never ye\, had 
seen there — a smoldering flame eloquent of hate that noth-( 
ing short of death could ever satisfy. 

For a pregnant mcxnent the two men gazed at each other, 
while the guard looked on with only an indifferent interest. 
Life for him held far too many such scenes for them to pos- 
sess any meaning. The very air he breathed was blended 
with human tragedies and sorrows past all telling. 

Arthur gave no sign and made no sound. He simply 
stood there at the inner grill, did Number 3265, his fingers 
hooked over the wires, peering out at Slayton with silent 
hate. Slayton coughed nervously and glanced about him. 
His eyes could not meet Arthur's. 

" What do you want here ? " asked the boy suddenly, his 
voice trembling a little. 

" My duty — compels me — " 

"Your — Christian duty, I suppose?" 

" My duty to my fellow man, my brother in distress." 

Arthur turned toward the warder. 

" Have I got to listen to him ? " he demanded. " On top 
of all I have to suffer here, have I got to see this fellow and 
hear his damnable hypocrisy? " 

The guard shot him an ugly look. The "V" Slayton 
had so wisely slipped to him was potent 

" Cut it, cut it ! " he retorted. " You ain't such a much 
to throw up a holler against nobody, much less him 1 " 

Number 3265 made no answer, because he knew that noth- 
ing he could say would possess any weight. Once more he 
peered out at Slayton silently. There fell a strange, tense 
quietude between these enemies, now so unequally matched. 

Slayton broke it. 

" Arthur," said he in his most unctuous tones, " this is a 
most painful occasion, but highly necessary. It grieves me 
to the heart to see you here. But duty demands it. Where 






A VISIT AND A PROPHECY 207 

duty leads I follow. I am here to speak to you without 
animus or ill £eeling. 

" I camiot forgive you your crime. Only God can do 
that. But whatever wrong you have done me personally, 
whatever accusations you have made, and whatever violence 
you have inflicted on me, I can and do forgive." 

Arthur laughed — a shuddering and terrible laugh. 
You — forgive — mef" he asked. 
I do," answered Slayton, feeling the sweat start on his 
forehead, though the air of that pest-hole hung dank and 
chilly despite the heat without. " Fully and freely I for- 
give you. But that's not what I've come to talk with you 
about, Arthur. Fm here to ask you reasonably and hon- 
estly to repair what damage you can, and to make good what- 
ever can be made good now." 

" What do you mean, Judas? " demanded Nimiber 3265. 

Slayton blinked angrily, as if about to repel the epithet, 
but thought better of it and made no retort. Instead, adopt-* 
ing a meek, conciliatory tone, he answered : 

" I mean just this, Arthur : give back the mwiey I " 

"The — money?" 

" Yes ; the one hundred and fifty thousand dollars. You 
can't restore poor old Mackenzie to life again, but you can 
make restitution of the stolen funds. The bank has felt 
the loss, Arthur ; no denying that. In spite of it," he could 
not refrain from adding, " the directors have materially in- 
creased my salary and bettered my prospects. I am grate- 
ful, naturally, for this recognition of my services at the 
time of the — er — tragedy. I want to do my duty by the 
institution. I owe the bank a great deal, Arthur; a very 
great deal — " 

"You're damned well right you do! You owe it one 
hundred and fifty thousand dollars ! " 

Swiftly the words shot at him across the grilled space, 
winged bolts of hatred. 



2o8 THE ALIBI 

" Eh ? What ? " stammered Slayton, his lean face pucker- 
ing strangely. 

" I said," repeated Arthur, " that you owe the Powhatan 
National Bank one hundred and fifty thousand dollars. 
And I add that the man who killed Mackenzie with my g^un 
is standing in front of me now. And on top of that. Slay- 
ton, I will tell you that, as God lives, Tm going to get out of 
here some day; and when I do — when I do — look out I" 

Slayton, gasping, turned toward the warder. 

" You hear him ? " he demanded. 

"Sure I hear him I He's woody — bugs, you know! 
Must be, to throw that kind o' bull. Maybe a touch o' the 
cooler might bring him out of it. He's liable to get it, all 
right." 

Arthur laughed again. 

" Put me in the cooler all you damned please," he re- 
torted. " I'm giving you facts." 

" Arthur I " cried Slayton, strangely shaken. " Your con- 
duct surpasses every limit of tolerance. Mr. Chamberlain 
had intended to interest himself in your behalf, and so had 
I ; but now — " 

** Now you know that I know all about the inwardness of 
the case," interrupted the boy. " I've got the whole thing 
on you, Slayton. You got away with the money, you killed 
the old man, you framed me, and sent me up for life 1 

" Safe now, aren't you ? Safe, with me * buried ' ? Guess 
again 1 The story's not finished, Slayton. It's not done 
yet. There's going to be another chapter some of these 
days, and the ending will be different from anything you've 
doped out 

" I'll wait for it, Slayton I God 1 I'd wait fifty years 
to get my fingers on your windpipe 1 So now you know 
what's coming. I've said all I'm going to. Get out, and 
let me alone I " 

The cashier, holding on to the outer grill to steady him- 



A VISIT AND A PROPHECY 209 

self, made no immediate answer; but stood there, paler 
even than his victim, with a strange look in his eyes — those 
blinking eyes that never held true. 

"Arthur," he managed to say at length, while the boy 
still fixed a look of most intense malignity upon him — " Ar- 
thur, my duty forces me to forgive you these slanders and 
overlook these threats. Nothing that you can say about me 
can matter in the least. Your idle vaporings are impotent 
to harm me. My only concern now is the recovery of those 
funds. 

" I know your better judgment will not wish to see the 
bank hampered in any way, which must react upon — 
upon — " 

" Not a word about her I Don't you dare to speak her 
name, you skunk 1 " 

" — Upon Miss Chamberlain — Enid — as I was saying," 
persisted the cashier, smiling with cold malice. "There- 
fore, I beg you again, my dear boy, let us have the truth. 
Nothing can matter to you now. You are here, unfortun- 
ately, for life. You have done much evil. Do what good 
you can now ; tell me where that money is." 

Arthur pondered a moment, pressing his forehead to the 
grill. Sla3rton, meanwhile, regarded him with cold and 
cruel pleasure. 

Suddenly the boy raised his head again. 

"All right, Slaytonl I'll teU you," he exclaimed, "if 
you'll promise to go then and get out of my sight — and not 
come back. Never come back here again ; you understand ? " 

" You — you'll tell me ? " demanded the cashier, surprised. 
"Ah, that's fine, my boy — that's fine I I knew you'd be 
reasonable. I knew you'd listen to argument 1 " 

He smiled with a glint of teeth. Things were breaking 
well for him that day. Against all expectation Arthur was 
about to make a statement which would absolutely clinch 
the case and make Slayton's position forever secure. Just 



2IO THE ALIBI 

to get rid of him, thought the murderer, Arthur was willing 
to tell any falsehood, no matter how damaging to himself. 
Desperate and hopeless, he was about to drive the last nail 
in his own coffin. 

" Where is the money, Arthur ! " queried Slajrton eagerly. 
"Where?" 

*' I don't know where all of it is,'* answered the tx)y in a 
pecuUar, strained voice that shook a little, as if by mam 
force he were holding it back from a raging outburst of pas- 
sion. ** I can't tell you where it all is. But I know about 
a part of it." 

" Part will be better than none, Arthur. Tell me ! 
Where is it?" 

" Well," said Arthur slowly, " some of it has gone into 
those smart new clothes of yours, Slayton. Some of it is 
in your pocketbook there, I guess," and he jabbed a fore- 
finger at the cashier. " Some you've probably salted away. 
And the rest has most likely gone to square up money- 
sharks and others that you must have got mixed up with be- 
fore you made the break. 

" Now you've got it, Slayton. You've got the answer. 
Keep your promise and get out of my sight I Get — out! " 

Dazed by this smashing right-and-left attack, which 
crashed home on him with shattering force, Slayton stared 
for a long, silent minute at the boy's palHd face which 
showed through the grill, contracted in a grimace of hate 
and loathing. 

Then, shaking his head, he turned to the guard. 

" You hear that ? " he queried. " No use talking to this 
man. He must be crazy 1 " 

" Crazy is right I We'll soon cool him off, believe me ! " 

" No violence, I beg. The poor fellow's mind is affected. 
He needs kindness and attention." 

The guard grinned significantly. 



A VISIT AND A PROPHECY 



211 



"That's our only treatment here, sir," he answered. 
" Kindness an' attention is Sing Sing's middle names ! " 

" Take me out, please. I've had enough." 

" All right, sir. This way, please." 

As the door of the reception-room opened to let Slayton 
out, the voice of Arthur snarled after him : 

"Don't forget I You owe me something — something 
that I'm ccxning to collect, some day ! " 



•CHAPTER XXIII 

RIVERSIDE DRIVE AND SING SING 

CHAMBERLAIN heard Slayton's report on the inter- 
view that evening with infinite sadness and regret. 
The cashier, greatly shaken by the clairvoyant pre- 
cision of Arthur's accusations — most dangerous in their 
possibilities, even though as yet believed by nobody — and by 
the threat he well knew Arthur would try to carry out if 
ever the boy recovered liberty, returned to New York in a 
state of extreme depression. Only one thing stood clearly 
forth: Arthur must at all hazards be kept behind bars. 
Every attempt to win a pardon, now or in the distant future, 
must be undermined, combated and overthrown. 

"You mean to say he refused to give any information 
concerning the stolen funds?" asked Chamberlain when he 
and the cashier had seated themselves with tobacco in the 
library of the president's house on Riverside Drive. " He 
wouldn't tell you anything? " 

" Not a word ; not a word." 

" Hmmm ! That's bad, very, very bad. I'm afraid the 
loss is going to be total. I was hoping he might be willing 
to make some partial atonement for his crime by restoring at 
least a part of the money." 

" He isn't, and probably never will be willing to say a 
word. Perhaps it was a mistake to have me see him at all. 
He seems to entertain the most deep-seated antipathy to me, 
If you'd been able to go, perhaps — " 

" No, no, no 1 " 

And Chamberlain raised a negative hand. 

aia 



RIVERSIDE DRIVE AND SING SING 213 

" I'm sure I couldn't have done a thing with him. He 
knows I believe him guilty. He's probably figured that I've 
tried to turn Enid against him — which is perfectly true. 
I know he'd never talk to me. You, Sla)rton, have con- 
sistently befriended him. He owes you a debt of deepest 
gratitude. If he won't tell you, then the money's gone for- 
ever." 

" I'm afraid you're right, Mr. Chamberlain. Very, very 
much afraid you're right. But don't, I beg you, talk of 
gratitude in connection with that fellow. He doesn't know 
the meaning of the word. Instead of being grateful to me 
he'd like to kill me if he could. I tell you, sir, there's a 
hard, vicious type for you. An old, evil head on young 
shoulders. 

"If ever a man got what he deserved it's Mansfield. 
Nothing saved me f r<nn assault and probably murder to-day 
except a steel grill-work between us. You know how he 
struck me down at the bank. Well, he'd have killed me this 
morning right there in the prison if he could have got at me. 
There's the man you used to receive into your home, Mr. 
Chamberlain. There's the man your daughter's still defend- 
ing!" 

" Dear, dear, dear ! " exclaimed the banker, much agitated. 
" How very distressing! You say he threatened you? " 

" Absolutely ! He swore to kill me if he ever could man- 
age to get out." 

"What? You don't say ! " 

" I do say ! I can prove every word of it by the guard 
who stood beside me during the whole interview. The fel- 
low got so abusive I had to withdraw." 

" Ts, is, is! " chuckled Chamberlain with his tongue. 
" This certainly puts a still worse light on the whole matter." 

He drew at his cigar and gazed on the cashier with wrin- 
kled brows. 

" Hmmm ! What a viper I did cherish in my bosom, so to 



314 THE ALIBI 

speak ! I'm afraid we've all been very grievously deceived 
in Mansfield from the very beginning." 

" Deceived isn't the word for it, Mr, Chamberlain. The 
man is a criminal from the word go. His father was a 
crook before him. He's of bad stock. Rotten, clean 
through." 

" Yes, yes ; of course. Odd, though, how clean and fine he 
managed to appear." 

" A finished criminal ; very smooth, that's all," said Slay- 
ton. *' One of the slickest propositions alive. In a way 
perhaps you got out of it cheaply. If he hadn't made this 
break and got caught he'd have gone on and on deceiving 
you. He'd have inevitably continued hoodwinking your 
daughter. He'd have induced her to marry him. 

" Then he'd have entangled you in ways too vast for imag- 
ination. He might have entirely wrecked the bank and got 
away with a million or two. And if you'd stood in his way 
he'd have shot you down like a dog — or maybe given you 
the more subtle treatment of a slow poison in your own 
house." 

"Quite likely," assented the banker. "Well, Slajrton, 
there's a silver lining in every cloud. There's good in every 
evil. Perhaps this tragedy, after all, is for the best. Maybe 
it's saved the bank from destruction, spared my life and res- 
cued Enid from a life of anguish and appalling disgrace." 

" I'm sure of it," said the cashier, gazing at the smoke of 
his cigar. " It's all for the best. It's shown us the duplicity 
of human nature. It's given us a chance to do our Christian 
duty. Hard as it's been for all of us, especially you — " 

" It has been hard, Slayton I " interrupted the president, 
his eyes watering with sudden emotion — for senility was 
creeping fast upon him. " This affair has taken hold more 
deeply on me than I can possibly tell you. Especially Enid's 
sorrow and her uncompromising attitude of blind faith in 
that scoundrel. Her — " 



f 

« 



RIVERSIDE DRIVE AND SING SING 215 

" You don't mean to tell me she still dings to him ? " de- 
manded Slayton, leaning forward with mock surprise. 

The fact was perfectly well known to him; but it suited 
his purpose to pretend ignorance thereof. 

Tm afraid she does," admitted Chamberlain. 

In spite of everything? All these oceans of proof? " 

" In spite of everything. Nothing has had the slightest 
weight with her. Not even what you've just told me would 
have any effect, I'm sure. She's formed a certain heroic 
concept of him that nothing can change — nothing whatso- 
ever. Looks upon him as a martyr, a victim of some kind 
of a plot; has all kinds of fantastical vapors and ideas, you 
know." 

He spread his trembling hands, palms outward, in de- 
spair. 

"You don't teU mel" wondered Slayton with arch- 
hypocrisy. 

"Yes, yes; it's the truth. Women are like that, 
you know, at times. They get an idea and worry it to 
death ; hang on like a bulldog ;, nothing can ever make them 
let go. Enid is absolutely obsessed by her belief in Mans- 
field. 

" And what can I do about it ? Nothing, sir ; absolutely 
nothing. She's of age; has her own independent fortune; 
is a free agent. I can advise, plead, appeal; but beyond that 
— nothing." 

" Very unfortunate, I'm sure," agreed the cashier. " Too 
bad she's not a minor." 

" Too bad, indeed. But she isn't, and I'm helpless." 

The old man looked it indeed as he sat there in the huge 
leather chair, sucking feebly at his cigar. 

" I've tried to get her to go South or West or over to 
Europe, but she won't stir. In spite of the fact that she's 
got downright nervous prostration and is a sick woman she 
still remains here. Clings to some sort of idea that some- 



.1 



ai6 THE ALIBI 

how in one way or another something may yet turn up to 
free Mansfield. And — ** 

" God forbid ! " exclaimed Slayton, starting. 

" Claims the ' conspiracy * will yet break down, and — and 
all kinds of notions of that sort, you understand. I don't 
know, Slayton ; I don't know what to do, indeed I don't'* 

He relapsed into silence. For a moment or two the men 
smoked, vis-a-vis across the library table, each peering at 
the other. Old Chamberlain shook his white mane de- 
spondently. His face, now much more deeply wrinkled 
than it had been six months before, drooped impotently. 
Slayton enjoyed the glister of tears in the old man's eyes. 
A keen, hard, malicious look of calculation came into his 
own. 

He was thinking: 

" Chamberlain can't last long at this rate: Even if he 
doesn't die he'll have to retire. I don't give him five years 
more at the outside. And then — a new president! Why 
not Walter Haynes Slayton ? " 

Slayton's terror of old Jarboe had probably caused him 
more acute suffering than any Chamberlain had experienced. 
Then, too, the cashier's continued thefts to meet the Shy- 
lock's demands had given him many a sleepless night, taken 
flesh from his bones, and put wrinkles in his face. Yet after 
all Slayton was a young man and could stand the gaff in- 
finitely better than Chamberlain. 

Fate might yet be kind. It might strike down Chamber- 
lain and exalt Slayton. And once in the president's chair, 
Jarboe's leechings would no longer be serious — unless, in- 
deed (the chill dread sometimes came upon Slayton), the 
blackmailer should raise his " insurance-rates " to meet the 
rise in salary. 

All this and more passed through his mind as he sat fac- 
ing the old man, smoking there in the library. And again 
the thought recurred: 



RIVERSIDE DRIVE AND SING SING 217 

" Jarboe is very old. Jarboe will die before long. The 
real and vital danger is Mansfield I ** 

Mansfield, at all hazards, must be kept in durance. Only 
through one agency might he ever be set free — and that 
was Enid. 

Enid, then, at last analysis constituted Slayton's greatest 
peril. His prehensile mind, grasping this fact, turned it and 
analyzed it with a precision. Something must be done at 
once to forestall any continued action on the girl's part in 
Arthur's behalf. In some way, at all hazards, her mind 
must be poisoned against him. 

But how ? 

The answer came to him not half a second later than the 
question. Through Dr. Nelson the thing could be accom- 
plished — Nelson, the medical assistant who had helped 
Coroner Roadstrand make the preliminary examination of 
Mackenzie's body; Nelson, whose cold, unimpassioned, sci' 
entific testimony had sealed the boy's fate. 

Dr. Nelson, if anybody in the world could do it, would 
be able to convince Enid that Arthur was a murderer. Not 
in an hour, not in a day or a week or a month perhaps ; but 
eventually. Once he could be brought in contact with her 
as her physician, the result was bound to follow. 

The solution of the problem dawned on the cashier like a 
veritable inspiration. Involuntarily he slapped his lean 
hand on his knee. 

Startled, Chamberlain looked up. 
Eh, what ? " he asked. 

The consummate villain ! " ejaculated Sla)rton indig- 
nantly. "If he had his just deserts he'd have gone to the 
electric chair!" 

The old man nodded melancholy assent. Gradually a 
new conversation knit itself between them sporadically, 
Slayton leading Chamberlain deftly whither he would. It 
lasted more than an hour before Slayton — havuv^ ^n^sn. 



it 



2i8 THE ALIBI 

more securely fortified his position and improved his pros- 
pects — sensed that Chamberlain was growing weary, and 
took his leave. 

Bit by bit he knew the old man was coming to lean more 
and more upon him. Bit by bit he knew his power was 
extending itself, increasing, deepening. And inwardly he 
smiled with evil satisfaction. 

Many things he knew ; but one thing he did not know — 
that Enid, standing tense and eager behind the brocaded 
portiere between the library and the music-room, had keenly 
followed every word of the long conversation, and that new 
thoughts had come to her, fresh hopes been bom, new sus- 
picions wakened in her loyal and untiring heart. 

Summer faded into fall, and fall died into winter; and a 
year had worn itself away since Grossmith's words of judg- 
ment had fallen on the ears of Arthur Mansfield, now meta- 
morphosed into Number 3265. 

Far worse, now, his condition had grown than it had been 
in the beginning. At first he had at least occupied a cell by 
himself in the cell-house, a huge stone building five hundred 
feet long and forty-four wide, with walls three feet thick. 
These walls pierced only by tiny windows and by iron grat- 
ings twenty-five feet apart, were always beaded with mois- 
ture. The place was a Gehenna; and yet the luxury of 
having a separate cell had at first been Mansfield's. In the 
Pit, even a slight cessation of anguish seems a pleasure. 

The cell-block itself, built inside the cell-house — a vast 
series of 1200 cages, back to back in tiers of two hundred 
each — was wholly deprived of fresh air or sunlight. The 
ground-floor cells opened onto a flagstone corridor; those on 
the five upper tiers gave onto narrow wooden galleries. 
Everything was dank, wet and malodorous. As a prison, 
Arthur soon discovered that Sing Sing justified the common 
saying: " A joke by day and a Hell by night." 



RIVERSIDE DRIVE AND SING SING 219 

Some hidden, malign infltience emanating from Slayton 
had got him assigned to a cell on " the flats/* as the lowest 
tier was known in the prison slang. Here germ-infested 
dust from sweeping, above, sifted down ; and the dampness 
was far worse than in the higher tiers. The cell-house was 
built very low, directly on the ground near the river — the 
River of All Hopes — and its walls showed a distinct water- 
mark, four feet from the floor. To that height the moisture 
had been absorbed by the old building, which in all its lower 
parts was slimy and mouldering. Rheumatism therefore 
came to nearly all the convicts, as a free gift from the State 
— together with some other maladies far less desirable. 

None the less, as I have said, Number 3265 at first en- 
joyed the unusual luxury of a cell all alone. The tiny cubi- 
cle of undressed stone, so damp that he could wet his haild 
at any time by drawing it over the surface, was at least all 
his. Through the forty-two small openings in the grated 
door very little air filtered, and such as came in was fetid 
as that in a charnel-house ; yet for a time, all of it was his. 
The small circular vent at the rear of the cell, supposed to 
communicate through a chimney arrangement with the attic 
of the cell-house for ventilating purposes, but really almost 
clogged with dust and serving mostly as a breeding-place 
for vermin, drew little or no foul air from the cell ; but at 
any rate Number 3265 in the beginning got all the slight 
benefit of this arrangement. The little bucket of stale 
water, the grimy drinking-cup, the dust-impregnated vege- 
table-fibre mattress on its gas-pipe frame all were his ; and 
he could read, undisturbed, could move about a little, and 
could write without interruption. 

Toward the middle of January, however, his windowless 
" hole-in-the-wall," unfit for an animal to lair in, was in- 
vaded by a square-headed blue-jawed "gopher-man" or 
yegg. This convict, having killed a man in his last " crush," 
had (like Number 3265) got ''track 13 and a washout/' 



220 THE ALIBI 

that is to say, a life-sentence. The Warden had assigned 
him to Cell 46, with Number 3265. Arthur Mansfield, lov- 
ing everything clean, had now become one of the 1300 un- 
fortimates forced to " double up " at Sing Sing. His real 
torture now began in earnest. 

They let down the upper bunk, only thirty inches above 
Arthur's, and they installed the big-jawed beast with him. 
Thereafter there was no slightest measure of privacy, peace, 
comfort, decency. Arthur's ears had to hear every con- 
ceivable atrocity of crime and vice, every vile suggestion, 
every revolting and degrading thing the murderer's bestial 
mind could conceive. After some days of this it was that 
he determined he would die rather than submit to such a life. 
They could kill him, if they would, but he would get away 
— living or dead — from contact with that monstrous de- 
generate. 

The new-c(Hner was not only a " coker " — a cocaine-vic- 
tim — of the worst type, but was also afflicted with tubercu- 
losis, which Arthur knew he was bound to contract in time, 
despite his greatest care. Yes, they had shut a man with 
T.B. into that narrow, unventilated place with him, and had 
not even given him a separate cup or water-pail. Arthur's 
very soul sickened. His underfed body, too, would sicken 
soon, no matter how hard he might work to keep his health. 

The yegg soon proved to be a " rat," as well ; that is to 
say, an informer who for dope or other favors, or possibly 
with the ultimate hope of a "life-boat" (a pardon), was 
eager to curry favor with the " screws " by snitching. 

Arthur's every word of protest was transformed by him 
into mutiny; his every aspiration was metamorphosed into 
stiff-necked insubordination ; his every hope changed to con- 
spiracies and plottings. 

Thus three weeks passed, and Arthur felt a berserker rage 
gaining possession of him. Sometime, he knew, if that ani- 
mal were kept with him, he would really do murder — an 



RIVERSIDE DRIVE AND SING SING 221 

act of virtue, if ever one were virtuous in this world. 
Sometime, with some rude weapon he could fashion, or with 
his naked hands, he would slay the degraded moron whom 
the authorities had forced upon him. 

And then they would electrocute him. The convicts 
would all be locked in their cells that day. None would find 
the consolation of toil. None would " do their separates," 
as exercise was called. Those in authority would shut him 
up in the death-house, amid all that human agony; and at 
an hour of silence through all the hideous place, when even 
the most hardened would weep and pray, crouching on the 
flagged floor, they would march him through the little 
door — to liberty! 

The " wail of impotent despair '* that would swell from 
near two thousand throats would be his requiem, as his 
soul was seared from the crackling flesh. At last he would 
be free I 

The scene came to dwell insistently with him. Only a 
week or so before, three men — two whites and a " Jap," as 
the underworld calls a negro — had gone "up the escape,** 
and Number 3265 had heard that wail. Silent, he too had 
prayed ; though why, he could not have told. In a way he 
found satisfaction in dwelling on the electric chair. At last 
resort, there was a way out. Had it not been for his 
mother, for Enid, and — now coming to be terribly potent — 
the hope of sometime feeling his fingers close on Slayton's 
throat, he might perhaps have chosen that way. 

But desperation had not yet reached its limit. Unwisely, 
Number 3265 decided to apply for a change of cell. He 
might possibly get one by himself again. At any rate, even 
should the new one have an inmate, he could not possibly" 
be so foul as the yegg. 

The " flats," Arthur knew, were largely reserved for what 
in Sing Sing are called " bad actors," or cripples who cannot 
climb the ladder steps leading from one tier to another. 



222 THE ALIBI 

Number 3265 was still strong and active. With some show 
of excuse he might make bold to apply for a cell on the ex- 
treme upper tier, more free from dust and moisture. This, 
then, he finally decided to do. 

His application was made on February i6th, respectfully 
and in proper form. Its results were immediate, and two- 
fold. First, it was refused. Second, Number 3265 was 
" stood out." 

" Stood out " means punished. Arthur had now marked 
himself for retribution. Never having snitched or bribed 
the screws, he had become a persona non grata. The ytgg, 
his cell-mate, had also fastened an evil reputation on him — 
the most evil of all prison-reputations : that of refusing to 
toady, to spy, to sink to the beast-level of the lowest. 

Then, too, Arthur's threats against Slayton, in the recep- 
tion-room, had been laid up against him. Those threats 
had at the time brought him only a warning. He had been 
spared the " cooler." Now, this punishment was upon him. 

Arthur was locked in his cell next morning and kept from 
the shoe-shop. At ten o'clock he was taken to the warden's 
office to be judged by the warden's court, consisting of the 
warden, the chief keeper and the doctor. Charges of in- 
subordination were read to him and he was asked to reply. 
Two minutes later he was furiously bidden to "shut his 
damned mouth." Sentence of the cooler was passed upon 
him and he was led awav to torture. 

Do you know what the cooler is, at Sing Sing? If not, 
hearken. 

The cooler is a dungeon into which sunlight never pene- 
trates. It has two doors, tight-fitting lest light and air reach 
the victim. The inner door is steel, the outer wood. Ab- 
solute darkness reigns in that fetid, damp and stenchful 
oubliette. Through the wooden door two covered slits are 
pierced, to let in just enough air so that the victim shall not 
stifle to death. 



RIVERSIDE DRIVE AND SING SING 223 

Into this place, then, they flung Arthur Mansfield, and 
there for three days they kept him, one of eight men simi- 
larly punished. Sing Sing has eight coolers; they are al- 
most always full. Night ceases to exist there, as distin- 
guished from day. Arthur slept, woke and slept again, but 
with no idea of time. His only bed was the cold stone 
flagging, damp and foul with nameless filth. His only food 
was handed in once a day: a slice of stale bread weigh- 
ing ten ounces, and about three-quarters of a glass of 
water. This just sufficed to keep the boy alive and at 
the same time produced the most exquisite suffering from 
thirst. 

Numbers of men have gone insane in the cooler, and some 
have attempted suicide. A normal man requires fifty ounces 
of water a day. The victims of the cooler get a scant eight 
ounces. Not a few cases of death have been recorded from 
this kind of reformation given by the Empire State to its un- 
fortunates or its criminals. 

Arthur did not die, attempt suicide or go insane. He 
emerged from the oubliette far thinner, weaker — and wiser. 
He returned to his cell, to the " coker," to silence. 

Whatever might happen, now, he would never open his 
lips again. He had learned the prime lesson that no convict, 
no matter how deeply wronged, has any rights that any 
prison-guard or officer, trusty or stool-pigeon, no matter how 
debased, need respect. 

He had long since lost all hope of justice being done him. 
Every legal means for obtaining his release had been tried 
by his friends. There remained only extra-legal means. 
These Arthur meant to try by himself. 

In his soul was burning, burning more brightly than ever, 
the one consuming flame, the passion for escape. 

Escape — either in the flesh or in the spirit. Either out 
of that Hell, alive, or out of it dead. 

The end was drawing close. Number 3265 had deter- 



224 



THE ALIBI 



mined to go free. For he knew now — and, knowing, 
would not tolerate it longer — 

That every prison that men build 

Is built with bricks of shame, 
And bound with bars, lest Christ should see 

How men their brothers maim. 



The vilest deeds, like poison weeds. 

Bloom well in prison air. 
It is only what is good in man 

That wastes and withers there. 
Pale Anguish keeps the heavy gates. 

And the Warder is Despair. 

With bars they blur the gracious moon 

And blind the goodly sun. 
And they do well to hide their hell. 

For in it things are done 
That Son of God nor son of man 

Ever should look upon I 



CHAPTER XXIV 

THE GETAWAY 

NOVEMBER once again. Just such another night 
once more as that frosty, moonlit one, two years be- 
fore, when Mansfield had sought the Judas help and 
friendship of Walter Slayton and when old man Mackenzie 
had fallen with Slayton's bullet in his brain. 

Just such another night ; and yet how much had come to 
pass since then i How very much was coming to fulfilment 
in the swift spate of events I 

The minotaur bellowing of the penitentiary siren, hurling 
its echoes against the high banks of the railway-cutting to 
eastward and far to the west over the sliding floor of the 
Hudson's big waters, screamed its warning and its menace 
to the whole countryside. It startled the slumbers of many 
a sleeping village up and down the river. Timid people 
shuddered in their beds or made doubly sure all doors and 
windows were carefully locked. 

Already the news was spreading everywhere by telephone 
and telegraph. Already the net was reaching out. But the 
siren gave the alarm vocal expression, flung it to the winds, 
and shrieked into the November night : 

" Convict escaped!" 

Just where the river narrows somewhat opposite the stem 
g^ay walls of the penitentiary, a man was dragging himself 
more dead than alive out of the chill black waters that spar- 
kled so eerily in the moonlight. 

As his numb; bare feet touched the pebbled bottom of the 

225 



226 THE ALIBI 

west bank he staggered forward, fell splashing on hands and 
knees, and then sank exhausted with only his head out of 
the water. There he lay a few minutes, panting. Just his 
white face showed, ghostly in the wan, changing light that 
waxed, that waned, as scudding clouds revealed and then 
obscured the burnished disk of silver in the black and frosty 
sky. 

Presently, with reviving strength, he made another eflfort 
and succeeded in dragging himself up over the boulders, 
through the alders that fringed the stream, and so into a 
clump of bushes, where he once more fell inert and nerve- 
less. 

There he lay shivering, absolutely spent, but free, free, 
free I Coatless and bareheaded he lay, clad only in striped 
gray-and-black trousers and a woolen shirt Around his 
neck, held by their knotted cords, hung a pair of coarse, 
heavy prison shoes. Sodden with drizzling water, shaken by 
agonizing chills, he could make no further effort for a while. 
To be still alive, alive and outside the walls of Sing Sing — 
that was enough. 

After a certain time the man roused up a little and began 
to take note of his environment. He peered about him in 
the cold, hard moonlight that filtered down through the net- 
work of leafless branches all about and over him. 

" Made it, by God I didn't I ? " he muttered. 

As if reaching out to lash him back into servitude and 
horror, the flails of the siren struck his senses. He smiled 
bitterly and spat toward the far prison. 

" Blow and be damned to you ! " he gibed. " You can 
burst your boilers blowing, but you'll never get me back there 
alive ! " 

Arthur Mansfield, heartened by this thought, found that in 
spite of his extreme exhaustion and the biting chill in the air 
his forces were returning. His body was still hard and 
strong. No excesses had ever sapped his great natural 



THE GETAWAY 227 

vigor. Though far below his normal condition he still had 
reserves of latent strength to call on. Even after the ter- 
rific struggle that had landed him on the west bank of the 
river a mile down-stream from the Pen, he felt he still had 
force to get up again soon and fight his way along. 

Peering through the bushes, he carefully observed the 
river and the eastern shore, took note of his surroundings, 
and began laying plans for the next step toward complete 
liberty. 

Far across the liquid barrier glimmered the lights of Os- 
sining. Dominating them a searchlight whipped impatiently 
across the flood. A few little sparks were moving on the 
black waters. Mansfield smiled contemptuously. Not with 
search-lights or with motor-boats would they ever find him 
now I 

The first step, the hardest step of all, had successfully been 
taken. It had come sooner than he had quite expected, but 
he had recognized the opporttmity and had grasped it ; noth^ 
ing simpler. 

He smiled at thought of all the excitement that had ex- 
ploded in the penitentiary when the ash-gang had been locked 
in. Eighteen men in stripes had loaded the scow. Only 
seventeen had gone back from the wharf. The eighteenth 
had seen the moment's chance, had slid noiselessly into the 
water, crawled under the piling, and there had left his ham- 
pering coat of woolen stuflF. The early winter dark had fa- 
vored him. 

Before the alarm had been given he had been half way 
across, swimming strongly with his shoes slung about his 
neck. The simplicity of the thing had given him tremendous 
satisfaction, to add to the wild, maddening exultation of be- 
ing once more — at last! — outside the numbing walls of 
granite, free, free, free ! 

That had been a fearful swim ; the latter part of it a fran- 
tic fight for life itself in the inky, freezing waters^ whicK Vv^ 



228 THE ALIBI 

had lashed to foam with gasping struggles to keep the pin- 
pricked stars and sliding moon in sight. Toward the end 
desperation alone had sustained him. He had given himself 
up for lost ; but even in that supreme moment the dominant 
thought had been : 

"Liberty I" 

Enid had come as a transitory image ; and his mother too 
— now dead a year and resting from her sorrows; but 
neither of these had usurped that one wild surge of exulta- 
tion: 

''Liberty!" 

Let death come now if come it must. It would not at 
any rate find him in prison walls. It would be out there 
tmder the sky, out in the free wind and water, merciful and 
well-beloved. 

Then he had sunk — had struggled up again and thrashed 
his way along blindly, gasping and choking but game to the 
end — and aU at once his feet had touched the boulders of 
the shelving shore. 

Arthur dismissed the struggle from his mind, and put 
the prison all away as though beneath contempt He peered 
about him, rising on hands and knees to make reconnaissance 
of his present situation. So far as he could see, no sign of 
human life or habitation was visible on the west shore. 
His entire prospect on the landward side of his clump of 
bushes was a sparse tract of woodland — birches, maples, 
and a few poplars, sloping gradually up away from the 
river. 

No sign of man. And yet Arthur understood perfectly 
well that he was now in a rather densely populated section 
of New York State, networked with roads and wires, dotted 
with towns, villages and hamlets, highly organized for the 
pursuit and capture of just such fugitives as he — a dan- 
gerous locality, in short, far more perilous in all its seeming 



THE GETAWAY 229 

wildness than the crowded thoroughfares of New York 
City. 

Arthur took counsel with himself. His plan so far had 
been successful. What next? Having reached the west 
shore of the river somewhere in the vicinity of Rockland 
Lake, what must yet be done to bring him to Staten Island, 
to Oakwood Heights, to the house of Walter Slayton, to the 
payment of the one great debt that he had sworn must and 
should be paid at once — at once, before any evil chance 
might possibly take from him all hopes of ever being able 
to pay it? 

What was to be done? 

Arthur pondered. His present equipment was most in- 
adequate for traveling. In those striped trousers and that 
flannel shirt he could not hope to reach his goal. Wet 
through and chilled to the bone, cold alone would defeat 
him even did not arrest threaten him at every point. 

And yet he had no change of clothing. No accomplice 
outside of the prison had cached a handy bundle of raiment, 
as in the story-books. Such things always happened most 
conveniently in novels ; but this was stern reality. 

Arthur Mansfield now found himself shivering and freez- 
ing in a thicket by the river-bank, on a frosty night of late 
November. The prospect was appalling. Yet his plan 
stood firm. His overmastering passion — revenge on Slay- 
ton — did not waver for a second. Long ago he had given 
up every hope of rehabilitating himself, of ever seeing Enid 
again, of ever reentering the ranks of society as a normal 
man. Even to approach the girl would now be fatal. 
Identified, he would be instantly seized and rushed back to 
that living death, that Inferno whose lights now flailed the 
river, searching for him. Reincarcerated, terrible punish- 
ments would be meted out to him. He would be placed 
under special restraints and forever lose all hope either of 
pardon or escape again. 



230 THE ALIBI 

No! Comt what might he must remain for all time a 
hidden, lurking, fleeing creature. Never again could he re- 
appear as Arthur Mansfield. Disguises, ruses, flight might 
save him. Sufiicient ingenuity and skill might keep him 
free. But it must be only as a vagabond, a hunted thing. 
Arthur Mansfield was dead. Another man was bom in his 
place — another man : Number 3265, Escaped. 

That man would live and die in the open. Living, he 
would never reenter Sing Sing. With an oath Mansfield 
once more aflirmed that determination. It steeled him 
against all contingencies. And beside it stood another — 
Slayton's death. That too was fully determined. Now 
that he was a fleeing fugitive, with " Murderer " written 
against his name, nothing remained to deter him from ex- 
acting with his own hands the justice that society had de- 
nied him. Swiftly he would take full payment for old 
Mackenzie's death and for the irreparable wrong Slayton 
had wrought on him. 

Arthur put on his shoes, stood up, and peered about him, 
still shivering. He saw nothing but woods to westward. 
Yet there, he knew, ran the West Shore Railroad, not very 
far away, his only hope of reaching Jersey City, Elizabeth 
and Staten Island. His location was quite clear to him. 
Under a guise of studying geography in the prison he had 
long pored over maps of New York State and New Jersey ; 
and as if photographed on his mind he could behold the 
exact lay of the land. 

To east of him spread the reaches of Tappan See. Two 
miles to westward was the railroad. But no station on that 
line lay nearer than Haverstraw, ten miles north, or Or- 
angeburg, twelve miles south. Between stations he could 
not hope to jump a freight. So far as the main line was 
concerned there was " nothing doing." 

On the Nyack branch, however, Nyack itself — the ter- 
minus — lay only three miles down the river. The place 



THE GETAWAY 231 

would certainly be warned and watch would be kept for 
him ; but it was his only opportunity. By holding through 
the woods or striking into the road he knew must be a lit- 
tle distance west of him, he could not miss the town. Dark- 
ness favoring, he might possibly raid some house or store 
for clothing and find the friendly shelter of a box-car. A 
desperate chance indeed — but his only one. 

Arthur, peering intently, advanced slowly through the 
thicket down-stream. Everything spoke of calm, peace and 
quietude — everything save that infernal bellowing of the 
siren, echoing across the bosom of the river. No breeze 
stirred the black and leafless twigs and branches of the 
wood. A little crisp snow crunched here and there under- 
foot. The moon, more obscured by thickening clouds, now 
showed only as a bright blur in the heavens, once and 
again glimpsing forth only to be quickly hidden by the drift- 
ing vapors that, moved by some current high in air, lagged 
toward the open sea. A light or two moved silently on the 
waters; and far away, mirrored in long lines, other lights 
from the habitations of men at peace, men unafraid, not 
hunted like wild animals, vaguely streaked the surface. 

A far whistle caught Arthur's ear. He stopped, looked, 
saw a speeding string of little bright dots — a train, rush- 
ing down the east shore to New York. 

" That'll be in New York in an hour or less," he pondered 
with bitterness. " I wonder if I'll ever be? " 

The thought infused fresh energy into his shaking body 
and chilled heart. Yes, by Heaven! He would make 
his goal — Staten Island — if it cost him his life! With 
new strength and courage, though with the most extreme 
caution, he once more crept forward. 

Some few minutes he thus made his way through the 
forest. Still nothing threatened. At this rate, he felt, in- 
side of an hour he would come upon the cleared land, the 
farms, the outlying suburbs he knew must fringe the town. 



232 THE ALIBI 

By seeking a road to westward he could advance much 
faster ; but caution held him to the woods. Every country 
road and lane might already be guarded. They were all 
bound to present greater dangers than the forest. Lacking 
any confederate to pick him up in a motor-car or in a launch 
and hurry him away to safety, he must depend on his own 
wits and energy. 

He still had many hours of night ahead of him. The cold 
was numbing his very heart, but somehow he did not mind 
it much. The fires of his purpose and his hate kept him 
warm. And the intensity of his listening, peering through 
the gloom, watching for every sound or sign of discovery, 
prevented him from dwelling on his physical distress. 

Thus Arthur advanced. Twenty minutes passed — half 
an hour perhaps. Silence reigned. The blaring of the 
prison siren had stopped, its cessation seeming to leave a 
vast, grateful emptiness in the night. 

Arthur felt much stronger now, and more confident. 
Even the moderate exercise of moving through the wood 
had warmed his chilled blood. Hope of success began to 
loom big in front of him. Yes, surely he would make 
Staten Island; he would come to grips with Slayton; he 
would drink his fill of justice. After that — what could 
anything matter? 

Suddenly he stopped. Ahead of him, vague, dim and 
black, loomed something through the trees. 

A house, was it ? Yes ; certainly a house. 

Inhabited ? No telling. Arthur crouched down amid the 
bushes, peering, listening, spying. Not a sound, No light. 
No sign of any .life. 

After a while the fugitive crawled forward slowly on 
hand^ and knees through the snow, through the dead, dried 
ferns and crackling weeds and bushes. Every few feet he 
stopped to harken and to watch. But still nothing seemed 
to threaten. And thus, after a pretty long time, he came 



THE GETAWAY 233 

dose up to the building and recognized quite surely that it 
was abandoned of men. 

Cautiously he crept about it, inspecting it from all sides 
by the uncertain light of the moon, now very wan and dim. 
It seemed a kind of rough shack somewhat in disrepair, set 
down in the woods about two hundred yards from the river. 
In front of it the trees had been cleared away. At the rear 
a path led to westward, probably to a road. The windows 
were all closely shuttered ; but on one side one of these shut- 
ters had been pried loose, as if the place had been entered 
through the window. 

Arthur pondered. 

" This place is evidently some kind of a hunting or fish- 
ing-camp," thought he. " Probably it hasn't been used for 
a good while. Surely there can be no danger here. Things 
seem to be coming my way." 

A few minutes later, he was inside the shack. The place 
smelled damp and musty. A penetrating chill pervaded it, 
worse even than the cold of the open air. Save for a dim 
gray rectangle where the blind had been thrown back, abso- 
lute darkness shrouded the room in which Arthur stood. 

Groping, he explored. His heart beat rather fast; he 
breathed through his mouth as men will do under stress; 
his eyes, opened wide, sought to pierce the gloom. No tell- 
ing what peril might at any moment face him, unarmed as 
he was, and alone. 

The place contained little save some common furniture, a 
stove and a shelf with tin dishes. One, knocked down by his 
hand, clattered terribly on the floor, giving him a terrific 
start. For some time afterward he dared not move or even 
breathe deeply ; but no harm had been done. Nothing hap- 
pened. Nobody had heard the noise out there in the woods. 
Arthur, realizing the isolation of the place, felt vastly re- 
lieved and now proceeded with greater confidence. 

Could he find food there ? Clothes ? Anythiu^ ot v^V\0. 



234 THE ALIBI 

He wotild have given a great deal for even one match ; but 
matches there were none to be found. A tin lamp without 
a chimney stood on the shelf with the dishes, and this, he 
found by shaking it, was half full of oil ; but it only mocked 
him. Arthur, shivering there in the dark and cold, cursed 
the lamp and set it back on the shelf. 

He explored everything for eatables, but discovered noth- 
ing. There were, however, some dirty dishes on the table, 
a carving-knife with a nicked blade and a kettle on the stove 
with the remnants of some kind of porridge dried on to the 
bottom. Evidently food had been prepared and eaten here 
by somebody who had not taken the trouble to dean up after- 
ward. 

Mansfield made another round of the shack. On the 
walls he discovered fishpoles and tackle, supported by nails. 
He came upon a door, opened it, and found another and 
even darker room. This on examination by his only possi- 
ble means — his hands — turned out to be a sleeping-place. 
Two cots stood here with tumbled bedding half on the floor. 
Arthur's hopes revived. There might be clothing here, 
after all I 

Eagerly he investigated. He presently found a row of 
nails driven into the wall, but they were bare. His heart 
sank. Ill luck was surely dogging him. The tenth-rate 
sportsmen who evidently had used this place might at least 
have left some old clothes for him. He included them in 
the malediction he had cast upon the lamp. 

Moving away from these disappointing nails, he trod on 
something soft. He stooped, picked up the thing, and felt 
of it with intense eagerness. His joy in recognizing the ob- 
ject surpassed almost any in his entire life. It was a coat I 

Shaking with eagerness and shivering with cold, he re- 
turned to the window of the other room, and by the dim 
light from without examined the coat. It was a wreck, a 
ruin, tattered and torn; but still it was a coat! Arthur 



THE GETAWAY 



235 



praised " whatever gods there be," and slipped the welcome 
rags upon his back. Then he hurried into the other room 
for more — if more there were. 

Again Fortune favored him. In a comer he found a 
pair of trousers. Groping on hands and knees, he discov- 
ered this priceless boon. The trousers were worse than the 
coat; but at any rate they were not striped with the black 
and gray of penal servitude. Lying close beside them was 
a greasy derby with liberal ventilation through the crown. 
Arthur crammed it upon his clipped head and laughed for 
joy. 

He understood now the pried-open shutter, the remnants 
of mush in the kettle, the cast-off clothes and the absence 
of any better ones. 

" Gk)d bless the hobo that camped here ! " he exclaimed 
with inexpressible gratitude. 



CHAPTER XXV 

CLOSE TO THE ARCH-ENEMY 

FOUR-AND-TWENTY hours later, in the library of 
Walter Slayton's house at Oakwood Heights, Staten 
Island, the last act in the cashier's life was coming 
to its culmination. 

Seated at his desk, haggard, wan, and grim, the man was 
writing. A great silence reigned. No sound was audible 
save the ticking of the clock upon the mantel and the 
scratching of the nervous pen. 

In front of him lay a tin box containing the gray wig 
he had worn when he had murdered old Mackenzie, and an 
automatic pistol. A close observer would have seen it was 
the very same weapon which, two years before, had sent 
the bullet crashing through Mackenzie's skull. Dr. Nelson 
after the trial had kept it as a gift from Roadstrand. Slay- 
ton had been instrumental in having Nelson called in con- 
sultation on the case of Enid Chamberlain. The case had 
proved most lucrative. Nothing more natural, then, than 
that the doctor had been willing to grant so slight a request 
as that of Slayton when he had asked for the automatic. 
Now there it lay in front of him on the desk, blunt, com- 
petent and businesslike. 

Slayton eyed it from time to time in pauses of his writ- 
ing. Once he smiled. The sight of it seemed good in his 
sunken eyes. Maybe it brought him thoughts of rest and 
peace after two years of torture so acute that nothing in 
Hell's pit could equal it — who knows? 

" Midnight," said he, nodding. " Midnight will be the 

2^ 



CLOSE TO THE ARCH-ENEMY 237 

time. IVe got half an hour yet. Time enough to finish! 
Time enough ! " 

Then he went on writing. Carefully he wrote and well, 
weighing his words, making here a change, there an erasure. 
Under the vertical light from the hooded incandescent the 
ravages that fear and evil-doing had wrought in his face 
became terribly apparent. For months now, every time 
darkness had surrounded him, the dead eyes of old man 
Mackenzie had seemed to stare at him, half open, glazed, 
hideous as he had seen them there that night in the bank by 
the light of the little electric flash-lamp that had fallen from 
the dead man's hand. 

For months he had not dared sleep in a dark room. 
Feigning the nervous affliction known as skiaphobia, in 
which a patient dreads the (jfiork, he had had a tiny incan- 
descent night-light installed beside his bed; and always its 
burning filament had banished the fishy eyes of Mackenzie. 

Almost always — not quite. A few times those eyes had 
looked at him even in the light. They were most apt to 
lurk in comers, in dim corridors, in unexpected places, sud- 
denly appearing — not reproachful, not angry, merely look- 
ing at him. 

Slayton had been obliged to avoid going out at night on 
account of them. He had come to dread the walk from the 
station to his home; of an evening. Certain peculiarities of 
his conduct, forced upon him by those eyes, had even 
started a bit of gossip going; not much, but still a little. 
Slayton was coming to be known as eccentric. Nobody 
understood it but himself. Nobody else knew the truth — 
incipient madness. 

Those eyes and old Jarboe's houndings — had they not 
been enough to drive any man mad ten times over? No, 
it was not conscience that had ravaged Slayton in those two 
years. He felt no very deep pangs of regret. A little, but 
not much. 



238 THE ALIBI 

The determining factor was and had always been fear — 
fear of exposure, fear of Jarboe's increasing extortions, fear 
of the Shylock's threats, fear of consequences in a few years 
at the outside in case Jarboe should not die and Slayton's 
continued thefts should be — must be — discovered. Fear 
of all these and other things ; and, above all, fear of the dead 
man's eyes. 

Slayton smiled grimly, nodding as he read what he had 
written. Something in his nature, some latent vanity per- 
haps, certainly a cynical quality of mind, perceived the tre- 
mendous sensation he was about to produce. The fact that 
he had misled and deceived a whole cc»nmunity, a State, one 
might almost say a nation — for the case had attained some 
national prominence — and that he had set law and justice 
by the ears, hoodwinked authority and conceived and carried 
out one of the most plausible hoaxes ever known, gave him 
a certain desperate satisfaction. Now, even in the face of 
death, he smiled. 

" It was a big game while it lasted," he muttered. " And, 
now it's done, it's going to make a damned big sensa- 
tion ! " 

Everything had befallen as he had planned it — every- 
thing save Jarboe's interference. Except for the accident 
of the wig, even that would not have come to pass. Well, 
that had been a scurvy jest of fate. Those six gray hairs 
clutched in Mackenzie's dead hand had beaten him after 
all — those, and Jarboe's infernal intelligence. 

He had played the game hard. He had found it not 
worth the candle. Sooner or later, he knew, he must go 
quite insane under the various stresses. That would mean 
lossH)f mastery of the situation. Slayton intended to be 
master at all hazards. 

There was only one way out, and he would take it. For 
that purpose he had sent his wife away. For that he had 
written the pages there before him on the desk. For that 



CLOSE TO THE ARCH-ENEMY 239 

he had taken the automatic from its place in the top drawer 
of his chiffonier. 

Despite all his cynicism, and all the cold-blooded, tmemo- 
tional aplomb which constituted the keynote of his whole 
character, he could not now in this supreme moment put 
away the sick and gnawing fear that moment by moment 
was besieging his soul. His eyes, hollow and blinking, fol- 
lowed the closely written lines of the letter — the last he 
ever was to write. Even with the end of everything at 
hand, his methodical mind reasserted itself. Here he crossed 
a " t," there dotted an " i." He was winding up his affairs 
and ending his life with well-calculated good order, just as 
he had always lived it. 

The letter was to his wife. It said: 

November 15. 
My Dear Janice: 

This is my last letter to you, my confession and my statement of 
the very good reasons why I find life impossible. My death will 
not only free me, but will also set another sufferer at liberty. I 
refer to Arthur Mansfield, unjustly sentenced to life imprisonment 
through my activities following a crime committed by myself. 

The case from beginning to end was a "plant," arranged by me 
and taken at its face* value by all concerned. Mansfield's story 
was the absolute truth. That of the prosecution, based on ma- 
terials arranged by me, was absolute falsehood. 

Mansfield is innocent of that murder as a babe unborn. I killed 
Mackenzie, and by the time you read this I shall have paid for it 
with my life. 

Five years ago I got into the clutches of a loan-shark, Christopher 
Jarboe. You can easily locate him and force him by legal means 
to testify to the truth of much of my story. He has known of 
my crime from the first If this letter will not free Mansfield, 
Jarboe's evidence can; and I entreat you to have the State make 
use of it in doing justice to the unfortunate young man now in 
Sing Sing. 

Jarboe entangled me to such an extent that I was forced two 
years ago to rob the bank of one hundred and fifty thousand dollars 
in order to keep him from exposing my speculations and ruining 



240 THE ALIBI 

me. Mansfield's bad luck brought him to our house that same 
night. You recall his story, so improbable and yet perfectly true. 
During the commission of the robbery, Mackenzie discovered me 
— or would have, had I not shot him. Following the crime, I 
arranged all the evidence to point to Mansfield. 

Slayton paused in his reading to add a few more words 
of explanation in the margin. These did not satisfy him. 
He took another sheet of paper, and with great detail de- 
scribed exactly how he had planted all the evidence. This, 
he knew, would have the greatest weight in any action to 
free Mansfield. 

When he had completed this and pinned the sheet to the 
letter, he continued reading: 

Only one piece of evidence confused the State, and that was the 
few white hairs found in Mackenzie's dead fingers. These con- 
stituted a grave peril to me. Let me now explain the mystery. 

I wore a disg^uise for the robbery. Part of it was a gray wig — 
the wig that went with my costume |or the Rosemoimt Club the- 
atricals in 1913. In the bank I accidentally dropped that wig on the 
floor. Mackenzie picked it up. I shot him while he still held it in 
his hand. In pulling it away from him I unknowingly left a few hairs 
in his grasp. The puzzle that so vexed Dr. Nelson and Coroner 
Roadstrand is now clear. 

In addition to all this I must explain that I discredited and ruined 
Sheridan, who was trying to defend Mansfield. I also wrote those 
anonymous letters to the Amalgamated Press, which helped turn 
public opinion against the victim. In fact, I engineered the whole 
thing. Through me a totally innocent man has been subjected to 
frightful punishment and anguish. In dying the least that I can do 
is to clear his name. 

My dear Janice, I have wronged so many people — you, first of all, 
and Mansfield and his mother, Chamberlain and his daughter, Sheri- 
dan, and others — in addition to having murder on my soul and the 
lesser crime of grand larceny — that I spare myself the futility of 
any plea for pity or forgiveness. I imagine the only person really 
sorry to have me die will be old Jarboe, who has been royally black- 
jnailing me for two years, forcing me to still further thefts and 
gradually driving me to a state of absolute desperation. 



CLOSE TO THE ARCH-ENEMY 241 

The change in my health and conduct you have noticed has not 
been physical but mental. In dying I will try to be honest Jarboe's 
exactions, thoughts of Mansfield, and persistent hallucinations con- 
cerning the murdered man have combined to make life intolerable. 
I am glad and happy to be free. 

Thank Heaven we have no children to labor under this burden of 
disgrace. It will be hard for you to bear, but less hard than to have 
me living and disgraced, imprisoned, maybe electrocuted. 

Yes, almost surely electrocuted. Exposure was bound to come 
some time. I am only forestalling the executioner by taking matters 
into my own hands. In a way I am sparing you the greatest dis- 
grace of all — that of being the widow of an executed murderer. 

What I have been able to do for you financially I have done. My 
insurance policies are all paid up, and none can be invalidated by sui- 
cide, as the time-limit on all has passed. They will bring you ap-> 
proximately $24,5oa 

You must keep this money. Do not let a misguided sense of honor 
induce you to give it to the bank. I now owe the bank $217,586. 
Your mite would be only a drop in the bucket In dying I pay my 
debt If you choose you can liquidate Mansfield's debt of $1,250^ 
but I beg of you do no more. 

My last request is that you put this letter at once into the hands 
of the district attorney and insist on immediate action being taken to 
free Mansfield. I have no more to say. I am not skilled in literary 
effects, and shall omit them. All I want is to make my meaning 
clear. 

I am the murderer. Mansfield is entirely innocent In dying by 

my own hand I am paying my debt to you, to him, and to the bank 

as fully as possible. Let me atone in death for at least a part of the 

great wrong I have done in life. 

Good-by. 

Your husband, 

Walter. 

The letter all revised and amended, Slayton put it into a 
long envelope, addressed it "To My Wife," and sealed it 
with care. The time was now growing short. Only a few 
minutes remained before midnight, the hour when Slayton 
had determined to pay his debt. 

He felt it must be then or not at all. Having made up 
his mind to this one fact, he sensed that, should the !\q^». 



242 THE ALIBI 

pass and find him still alive, he could not muster courage 
again to fire the shot. So he must act at once, leaving no 
time for thought, for analysis, for fear, for hope. 

Where should he put the letter now that it was written? 
At first the obvious answer was: on the desk. But this 
did not meet his approval. Mrs. Slayton would not return 
till the morning of the 17th. Meantime, somebody else 
might investigate. The letter would then inevitably fall 
into other hands than hers. 

It might miscarry of its purpose. The thought occurred 
to him that he could mail it to her; but here two objections 
intervened. One, a slight chance existed that it might get 
lost. The other, it would give her a frightful shock away 
from home, and subject her to a large variety of disagree- 
able experiences while among strangers. Together, these 
objections decided him not to mail it. 

Then again, once he should leave the house and breathe 
the fresh night air, his determination might desert him. He 
might delay, postpone the deed, never again find nerve to 
do it. No, no! Decidedly he would not mail the letter. 
But where then should he put it? 

He thought a minute, and then nodded. Yes, that was a 
good idea. He arose, took off his coat, slid the letter into the 
inside pocket, and, going out into the hall, hung the coat in 
the little closet under the stairs — the very same place 
whence he had taken the old clothes for his disguise on the 
night of the murder. 

Here, he knew, Janice would be positive to find it, and 
here it would probably be safe from other hands than hers. 
The arrangement was not perfect, but it would do. 

Satisfied, he returned to the library and to his desk, where 
lay the black, ugly automatic. 

At this same hour and minute a hungry and shivering 
but most detenpined tramp was making tihe last lap of the 



CLOSE TO THE ARCH-ENEMY 243 

distance down the country road from the Oakwood Heights 
station to the cashier's house. Both hands were thrust 
deep in his pockets. The right gripped the handle of a 
knife there — a carving-knife with a nicked and rusted 
blade. 

A coarse woolen shirt, a ragged coat, and trousers gro- 
tesquely tattered did their best to keep him warm, but failed. 
Pulled tight down on his head, a thoroughly ventilated old 
" dip " gave but mediocre shelter to a head otherwise un- 
protected; for this tramp's head had been lately clipped 
close, and now only a bristly stubble of hair covered its fine 
proportions. 

In some ways the tramp seemed but an ordinary vaga- 
bond — one of the miserable bits of social flotsam cast up 
by the tides of civilization. In others, however, he seemed 
not true to type. His blue eyes, his high and well-modeled 
forehead, the straightness of his nose and the firm contour 
of his unshaven, bristling chin might have made an ob- 
server wonder how such a man, obviously well built and of 
unusual strength, should have come to take his furtive 
place in the army of the unemployed. 

Fortunately for the tramp's ^eace of mind, there were no 
observers at that hour and on that road. All the day before 
he had lain hidden — still fasting — in a deserted water- 
man's hut out on the Hackensack marshes near Leonia, 
where at daybreak an irate Erie brakeman had ejected him 
from a " gondola *' at eighteen miles an hour. At nightfall 
he had ventured forth from his lair, had managed to jump 
another train — blind baggage on a passenger this time — 
and had struck Jersey City not long after. 

He had left this train in the dusk under a big bridge 
where it had been held up by adverse signals. Sheltered 
by the bridge embankment, he had found a couple of knights 
of the road engaged in warming their numb fingers over a 
little fire of tie-chips and other refuse. Admitted to their 



244 THE ALIBI 

society by virtue of his rags and greater poverty than theirs, 
he had presently come into possession of half a frankfurter 
and a piece of biscuit — the first food to pass his lips since 
he had taken such unceremonious leave of his gray granite 
boarding-place far away up the Rhine of America. 

More valuable even than this largesse had been the dis- 
covery that the railway on the bridge was a through line to 
Elizabeth, and that in half an hour a freight would halt a 
mile to westward at a crossover. The tramp had thanked 
his new comrades and had departed toward that spot, eager 
to be on hand for the freight. 

This train had landed him in Elizabeth about quarter 
past eight. He had left it in the outskirts of the town, and 
by making judicious inquiries — always of children — had 
managed to find his shivering way to Elizabethport, and 
later to Bayway, where the tracks cross on the long trestle 
over to Staten Island. 

Once en route, he had seen a newstand with a copy of the 
News-Clarion displaying his picture with big headlines ; but 
he had not paused to read, and penny he had none to pur- 
chase the paper. Several times he might have snatched 
food from shops, but not once had he risked any such at- 
tempt; nor had he begged. 

Famished though he was and racked with cold, he was 
determined to risk nothing till he had settled with Walter 
Slayton. The slightest mischance now might baffle him and 
forever lose him the chance for which his soul lusted. 

After the account had been squared, there would be time 
for everything else. Till then his one constmiing passion 
had been to press on — footsore, shivering, starving — to 
the goal. 

With a supreme rallying of all his forces he had made 
the distance, tramping straight across the island from Port 
Ivory to New Dorp and thence to Oakwood Heights. 

Fatigut he had not felt. The raw blisters on his sockless 



CLOSE TO THE ARCH-ENEMY 



MS 



feet he had never even heeded for an instant. The pierc- 
^ ings of the cold, the gnawings of famine had been powerless 
to stay or hinder him. 

For now the village of the Heights lay behind him, and 
he was plodding down the outlying road where dwelt the 
man he sought. Now the burning dream of many terrible 
months was about to be realized. 

Now already he had won within striking distance of his 
arch-enemy, Walter Slayton. 



CHAPTER XXVI 

THE DISCOVERY 

« 

KEENLY Mansfield observed the scattering houses of 
Oakwood Heights, strung out along the road at con- 
siderable distance from each other. Slayton's, he 
well remembered, was the last one before the roadway 
turned toward the distant salt-marshes and became a mere 
trail to the timber-littered beach. 

As he beheld the vague bulk of this house afar off, iso- 
lated from its nearest neighbor by three or four hundred 
feet, a curse mounted to his lips. The moon broke through 
a rift and cast a pale illumination on its gables. It made 
black shadows beneath its porch, and glinted from its upper 
windows. 

Mansfield halted a moment with lips drawn back and 
teeth showing. His face was changed to that of a brute. 
His right hand clinched the handle of the carving-knife in 
his pocket with ferocious energy. 

Cautiously he peered up and down the road, saw nobody, 
and once more came on. At that late hour and in that scat- 
tering suburban community the chances of detection were 
slight. He thrilled with hate and exulted with confidence. 
Once he could effect entrance into that house he knew he 
could take vengeance on the coward and the monster who 
had wrung him dry and flung him into Hell. 

Now the house lay hardly a quarter-mile down the road 
from him. Only a single light was showing in it — a crack 
of light at the front window — the library window — the 
very room where two years ago Slayton had falsely prom- 
ised him aid and had thus lured him on to ruin. 

246 



THE DISCOVERY 247 

Mansfield's heart leaped with savage joy. Slayton, he 
felt, was probably all alone in that room — reading, no 
doubt; enjoying the luxury resulting from his crimes, think- 
ing himself safe in the security he had bought by having 
sent his victim to a living death in Sing Sing. 

"Just a window-pane now between him and this eight- 
inch knife ! " muttered the fugitive, creeping down the road 
under the shadow of the trees. 

Suddenly he stopped. The light in the library had all at 
once gone out. 

Mansfield pondered a moment, then came on again. A 
moment later he thought he heard a distant, faint detona- 
tion, hardly audible ; but to this he paid no heed. 

Drawing the knife from his pocket, he slid along the 
road, silent and ominous. A smile parted his lips — the 
first smile in weeks. For now close before him stood the 
house of Slayton, goal of all his hopes and dreams, reward 
of all his agony and toil. 

The cashier, firmly determined on death by his own 
hand, returned from the hall to the library, after having 
hung up his coat in the closet, with the confession of his 
crime in the pocket. 

A glance at the clock showed him he had only three 
minutes to live. Though extremely pale, he was holding 
his nerve. A certain unnatural calm after the storm of 
terror and indecision now possessed him. After all, it 
would soon be over and done with. When life is no longer 
possible, death becomes a blessed refuge. 

Slayton sat down at his desk, took the pistol in his hand, 
and glanced about him for the last time, saying farewell 
to the familiar room, the books, the desk, the telephone, 
the lamp — all the commonplace little things of life that 
through long years of use become, as it were, part of our- 
selves. 



248 THE ALIBI 

He reached out with his free hand, took up a silver 
frame containing a small photograph of Janice, his wife, 
kissed it twice, and put it back methodically in its place. 
Curiously he turned the black gun to and fro, peering with 
a kind of eager wonder at the round, ugly muzzle whence 
two years ago he had sent death to another, and whence 
he now planned to give it to himself. 

Nervously he blinked, as was his habit, took off his glasses 
and laid them on his desk, and then pulled the little chain 
that controlled the incandescent. 

" Damn it 1 " he muttered. " I can't do it in the light, 
anyhow. That's too much — too much ! " 

The clock on the mantel gave its little premonitory click 
that told it was about to strike the hour. 

Slayton swallowed thickly and wiped his left hand across 
his forehead, where the sweat was beaded heavily. His 
lips twitched unsteadily ; a kind of shuddering quiver trem- 
bled through his whole body. 

None the less, with considerable coolness he raised the 
automatic to his head. He brought the muzzle round to his 
right ear and just behind it, to that most vital spot where 
a bullet infallibly brings instant death — the same identical 
spot where he had shot old man Mackenzie. 

Now that the electric lamp was out, a ribbon of pale 
moonlight fell across the floor from above the window- 
shade which fitted imperfectly. Slayton fixed his eyes upon 
this ribbon, the last light he ever should gaze upon. It 
was just such moonlight as that when he had done the mur- 
der — and just such a night. 

A sudden, hot impatience swept over him. 

" Why the devil doesn't that clock strike ? " thought he 
desperately, angrily. 

As if in answer to his question, the first of its twelve 
little chiming strokes broke the stillness. 

Motionless, the cashier waited till the sixth had sounded. 



THE DISCOVERY 249 

his hand tightening on the butt of the automatic, his finger 
squeezing the trigger with cumulative force. 

Then just as the seventh stroke came, making the exact 
beginning of the new day, that finger swiftly tensed. 

A hard report shattered away the silvery striking of the 
clock. Slayton pitched forward on his desk, knocking the 
telephone over. He slid from it, collapsed on the floor, 
and lay there motionless, the pistol still in his right hand. 

He had just done the only courageous act of his whole 
existence. 

So far as he could ever pay, his debt was paid. 

Over the dead man's face the ribbon of moonlight 
streamed, cold, wan, ghostly. It alone, it and the busy 
little pendulum of the gilt clock above the fireplace, now 
moved in that quiet room. Save for the moonlight and 
the clock, all was motionless and still. 

Thus a few minutes passed. And now the moonlight 
faded. Some vagrant cloud had drifted athwart the moon. 
A velvet gloom shrouded the library. But still the gar- 
rulous clock kept telling its story of time to ears that heard 
not — heard not, for time had ceased for them, and eternity 
begun. 

All at once a plank creaked somewhere beneath a cau- 
tious, furtive tread. Where was it? Hard to tell. It 
seemed, however, to have sounded on the porch. Yes! 
Surely it must have been on the porch. 

It was but a momentary sound. Silence followed. Si- 
lence that lasted now full five minutes. 

Then, slightly scratching, a little noise — all but inaudi- 
ble — began to develop at the front window. It came, 
ceased, began again — a sound as of some implement being 
cautiously forced in between the two sashes near the win- 
dow-catch. 

Now it paused two or three minutes, as though some- 



250 THE ALIBI 

body were listening there outside. Whoever the intruder 
might be, he heard no disquieting sound ; and presently the 
blade of a long, rust-bitten carving-knife exerted a strong, 
steady pressure on the catch, forcing it back. 

This manceuvre produced a slight squeak, which was 
followed by another period of profound quiet. When the 
man outside had obviously satisfied himself he had not been 
heard, he once more began his labors. 

Almost noiselessly the lower sash of the window began 
to rise, an inch at a time. Soon it was fully open. A 
hand now grasped the bottom of the shade, and after two 
or three attempts raised this also without any very appre- 
ciable noise. 

In the aperture, vaguely grayed by a dim ghost of moon- 
light filtering through cloud-banks high and chill, the form 
of a man became dimly visible there at the window. 

Crouching, he stood there, listening intently. One hand 
gripped the window-sill. The other held a long, slim ob- 
ject — an eight-inch blade set in a hardwood handle. 

Still no sign, sound or hint of detection, opposition or 
danger reached the straining ears of the intruder. Cau- 
tiously now, moving with the utmost deliberation, he raised 
one leg and put it over the sill, feeling for the floor within 
with his foot. 

He found it, rested his weight on the advanced foot, and 
— holding to the window- jambs — clambered silently into 
the library. There, now fully inside the house of the man 
he hated with a hate unspeakable in its virulence, Arthur 
Mansfield remained perfectly motionless for at least two 
minutes, listening for any possible sounds from above-stairs. 

Slayton, he figured, had turned out his light and gone to 
bed. Very well. Either he would seek and find the cashier 
up-stairs, or he would lure him down. In either case the 
end would be the same. 

But where was Slayton? Mansfield could not yet be 



THE DISCOVERY 251 

sure. At all events, it seemed certain the entrance into 
the house had passed unnoticed. Turning with meticulous 
care, Arthur lowered the window again and slowly pulled 
down the shade. This done, he smiled grimly with savage 
exultation. The long-hoped, eagerly-desired moment now 
lay close at hand — the moment when he could feel Slay- 
ton's life spilled out by his hand — the moment when, if 
only for a second, he could gaze upon that Judas corpse 
and spit on it and laugh. 

Cautiously now, moving with extended hands, Arthur 
advanced across the library floor. The hardwood strips 
were solid and the rugs thick. No plank creaked. Arthur 
bitterly contrasted this warmth and comfort with the foul 
cage into which Slayton had flung him — as the cashier 
had hoped, for life. And a vast, overwhelming joy blazed 
up in him now to be here in this very room where the initial 
treason had been wrought on him — to be about to deal 
out justice, swift and sure, by his own hand in this same 
room to that traitor, coward and wrecker of his whole 
life. 

No thought now of mercy could find entrance into that 
inflamed and raging soul. If any memory of Enid, inclining 
him to stay his hand, sought to gain entrance he put it vio- 
lently away. Obsessed by this one idea, indiflFerent to past, 
present and future save as these bore on this one thing, he 
stalked his prey. 

A moment he advanced in darkness, but only a moment. 

All at once, moving with extreme caution, he felt his 
right foot strike some heavy and inert thing lying in his 
path. 

This thing was soft and strange. It gave slightly under 
pressure, but made no sound. Puzzled, Arthur stirred it 
with his foot, and wondered what the thing might be. 

Then he stooped to touch it. 

Just at that moment the moon slid from her veiling bank 



^52 



THE ALIBI 



of cloud. A pallid band of light drew itself across the floor 
— across the floor and over the peculiar object of his won- 
derment. 

Arthur beheld a black something lying there ; then he saw 
white — white and red. 

Blinking, perfectly unable to grasp the slightest idea of 
what he so imperfectly saw, he crouched closer, extended 
his hand — and touched a human face. 

The band of moonlight all at once revealed to him, as he 
moved slightly and let it shine full on this face, a glazed, 
unmoving eye that with dull fixity seemed to be regarding 
him. Just that he saw — the vague black-and-white ob- 
ject; the face with the strange red blotch upon it; the filmed 
eye. 

A quiver of panic twitched through all his limbs. Again 
he groped for the thing. He drew his hand back, back into 
the ribbon of misty light. 

His fingers were smeared with red. 

The light strengthened. Now he recognized the face, 
the dead and lusterless eye so cynically fixed upon him. 

" Slay ton? Dead?*' he stammered, recoiling. 



CHAPTER XXVII 

TRAPPED? 

HARDENED against fear though Arthur had be- 
come in the two frightful years of his imprison- 
ment, and proofed against all weaknesses of nerve 
or sensibility, yet the dawning horror of that apparition 
lying there before him, dead and blood-drenched on the 
library floor, came nigh to shattering his self-control. 

He barely stifled a harsh cry. Stumbling back and away 
from the body, he collided with a chair, half fell into it, 
and subsided, quivering. His hands clutched the chair- 
arms. Shaking and horror-stricken, staring at the motion- 
less thing there in the moonlit ribbon, he sat there stunned. 

This first spasm of unreasoning horror lasted only a brief 
moment. No longer was Arthur the ingenuous, impres- 
sionable boy of other days. He had grown wise, resource- 
ful, strong. Almost as the terror came upon him, strang- 
ling him in its grip, he fought it off again. Once more he 
mastered himself, and with quick aptitude began formu- 
lating plans for action under these dazingly unexpected 
conditions. 

A thousand questions assailed him. 

What had happened? Who had done this murder, and 
why? Where was the murderer now, and who might he 
be? Was he still in the house? 

And Mrs. Slayton, what of her? Was she still living — 
or had she, too, met the same fate? Had the alarm been 
given? Was urgent peril near? 

Useless to outline a hundredth part of the overwhelming 
problems now confronting him. Arthur faced them, reel- 

253 



254 THE ALIBI 

ing, yet full of fight All he could be sure of now was 
just this: The fact that through some jest of fate — just 
such another ugly trick as the one which had first branded 
him a murderer and flung him into servitude — he had now 
been not only cheated of his heart's desire, revenge, but 
also stood in utmost peril of a fresh accusation which this 
time must inevitably land him in the electric chair. 

Arthur realized there was no moment to be lost. Slay- 
ton had escaped him. By a few minutes he had lost that 
for which his heart and soul had lusted. Now nothing 
more remained to be done. The only matter of importance 
was his own safety. 

He advanced to the body, the knife still in his right 
hand, his left blood-stained. A swift vision of his plight 
brought a grim smile to his lips. 

" No alibi possible this time if Vm caught here," he mut- 
tered. " As a situation, some situation 1 " 

Again he stirred the body curiously with his foot. The 
face moved slightly in the moonlight; the eye seemed to 
be looking at him. Yes, there lay Slayton dead before him ; 
but now he had lost all desire to spit on the Iscariot. Death 
even in that form had suddenly invested the creature with 
a certain inviolable dignity. The helplessness of the arch- 
enemy — traitor, perjurer and murderer though he was — 
formed the supreme appeal. Arthur shook his head. 

" You win, damn you ! " he said with a consuming bit- 
terness. 

He sensed the wetness of his fingers, and instinctively 
was about to wipe them on his rags, when caution stayed 
his hand. No; he was wiser now than once. Instead he 
stooped over and cleaned his fingers on the dead man's 
coat. 

No alarm as yet had been given. There might be a few 
moments' time yet for him to get his bearings. Nothing 
could be more ill-advised than for him to depart in haste 



TRAPPED? 255 

without plans, ignorant of just what had taken place here. 
By all means he must wait a minute or two before re- 
treating. 

The moonlight died again. Arthur now found himself in 
the dark with his dead enemy. This fact did not disconcert 
him. He felt neither repulsion nor fear, but only annoy- 
ance. ^ 

Taking his bearings as best he could, he felt for and 
reached the desk, found the incandescent — still just as it 
had been two years ago — and turned it on. Some risks 
had to be assumed, and this was one of them. The fact 
that every curtain was close drawn, and that a profound 
silence reigned throughout the house and over all the neigh- 
borhood, was reassuring. 

Swiftly Arthur now surveyed the room, taking in every 
detail with the quick precision that his watchful prison 
habits had taught him. Nothing had been disturbed in the 
library. No signs of a struggle were visible. Sla)rton lay 
between the desk and the center-table, his head toward the 
desk and near the l^s of the desk-chair, as though he had 
slid down from it and fallen there by his own weight. 

In his right hand he still clutched a pistol, black and grim. 
Back of his ear an ugly wound showed whence life had 
fled. 

" Suicide," judged Arthur at once. " Nothing to it but 
that I " 

He knew by all the signs, and most particularly by the 
manner in which the gun was held, that Sla3rton had come 
to death by his own hand. Dr. Nelson's testimony still re- 
mained clearly graven on his mind. It was most useful 
now, was it not? 

With a start he recognized the weapon. He slid the 
carving-knife into his pocket, crouched down beside the 
body, and examined the automatic. Yes, it surely was his 
own, the very gun wherewith he had thought to end his 



2S6 THE ALIBI 

life two years ago, the gun that had played so large a part 
in convicting him. 

Should he take it or leave it there ? Quickly he; debated 
the question. The gun might be dangerous to him if left. 
His threat against Slayton was known. His escape had 
happened to coincide with the hour when Slayton had killed 
himself. Would the gun clear him or would it not? 

The fact that it had belonged to him and that it had his 
initials, "A. M./' cut into the hard-rubber butt, might be 
very prejudicial to him. Popular opinion, the press and 
all would raise a terrible hue and cry against him on that 
account. 

Even though it could be shown that Slayton had prob- 
ably committed suicide, that would not matter. If Arthur 
were ever tried for this crime the State would show that he 
had simulated the cashier's suicide and that a real murder 
had taken place. 

Arthur shuddered, glanced warily about and listened for 
possible danger. The electric chair this time and nothing 
less was looming before him now. On just this one de- 
cision might hang life or death for him. 

" rU take the gun I " he suddenly exclaimed, and reached 
for it. 

At all hazards he must have it. Not only might it be 
of tremendous value to him in case of pursuit, but it must 
not be left there. The accusing story that could be framed, 
how he had returned to the cashier's house, broken in, 
found the gun and with it murdered Slayton, then put the 
weapon in the dead man's fingers — despite all the denials 
of medical science — and fled, avenged, wotdd be too ut- 
terly damning. 

The gun must go with him. 

Quickly he loosened the dead man's hand. The body 
was still warm. Though the tensed fingers resisted, Ar- 
thur forced them open and slid the pistol into his pocket 



TRAPPED? 257 

Now what next? 

Again he listened, but all was silent as the grave. He 
tiptoed over to the library windows, first one and then the 
other, and cautiously peeped out around the edge of the 
shades. Nothing could be seen. Night brooded undis- 
turbed over the suburban quietude. 

Reassured, he came back to the body and once more 
studied it. Probably there would be time enough for all 
he needed to do. As he pondered, looking down at Slay- 
ton, he smiled. The poetic justice of that death-wound 
did not escape him. He grasped the significance of the 
fact that the cashier had shot himself in precisely the same 
place where he had dealt death to old Mackenzie. With a 
kind of grim approval he nodded. 

There was, however, scant time for introspection. Much 
had to be done at once. Arthur's forces were now well- 
nigh spent. He must eat, change his clothes and make his 
getaway immediately. 

He felt positive nobody could be upstairs. Had there 
been, that person must inevitably have come down, at 
sound of the shot. Without any question Slayton had b^n 
alone in the house when he had killed himself. Arthur, 
therefore, felt safe to proceed with his task of recuperation 
and flight 

Taking his bearings, he swept a glance about the room. 
Through a door at the rear he caught a glimpse of a pol- 
ished oak dining-table, and beyond it of a sideboard with 
cut-glass and silver, dimly visible by the light reflected from 
the hooded desk-lamp. 

Cautiously he proceeded into the dining-room. His nerve 
had now returned. He felt cool, unshaken, confident. 
Constantly he listened for any suspicious sound outside or 
up-stairs. Hearing nothing, he made his way to the kitchen. 
Here he pulled down all the shades and turned on one in- 
candescent. Next he carefully washed his hands at the 



2s8 THE ALIBI 

sink, wiped them on a dish-towel^ and was about to hang 
this up again when he paused, struck by a thought. He 
pocketed the towel, smiling. Experience had taught him 
much. No more evidence of any kind was to be left be- 
hind, this time. 

Arthur now routed out an abundance of provision — 
half a 1^ of mutton, some cold baked potatoes, bread, 
cheese and cake. A case of beer, half full, stood near the 
refrigerator, in which were half a dozen bottles on ice. 
Arthur found them there when he opened the little door, 
using the flap of his ragged coat to turn the handle with. 

" No finger-prints I " thought he. " And no beer ! " 

Plain water from the faucet — also turned without the 
contact of his fingers — better suited his need of keeping 
a clear head and steady wits. He ate ravenously, wolfing 
the food in huge bites as he walked to and fro in the kitchen. 
He drank from the running stream at the faucet. This 
avoided the danger of touching a glass with greasy fingers. 

Satisfied in part, he next proceeded to hunt for clothing. 
The front hall, when illuminated by an incandescent, re- 
vealed many possibilities. A variety of hats and overcoats 
were hanging on the rack. Arthur chose an ulster and a 
soft black felt. The proximity of the dead man now dis- 
turbed him not a whit. He worked as calmly and method- 
ically as if the house were his own, and he were all alone 
there. 

So far so good. But he needed much more. The half- 
open clothes-closet under the stairway attracted his atten- 
tion. He investigated and found splendid possibilities. 

Quickly he routed out shoes, rubbers and a coat, together 
with a waistcoat and trousers. He thrust his hand into the 
pockets of the coat. It touched a wallet and a folded paper 
in the inside breast-pocket. For one second of time Ar- 
thur's hand rested on Slayton's confession. Then the wal- 
let attracted his attention and he forgot the paper. 



TRAPPED? 259 

The wallet Felt plump. Arthur smiled but did not in- 
vest^te. Time enough for that later. Whatever it might 
contain would help in this emergency. Slayton owed it to 
him a thousand times over. 

Arthur laid all his plunder on the seat of the hat-rack 
and scouted up-stairs for accessories. His fear of inter- 
ruption had now largely disappeared. He now knew that 
nobody was at home. Nobody was comii^, he felt sure, 
from outside. Doubtless the whole night lay ahead of him 
to do with as he pleased. He had time enough, yet none 
to lose. The qlticker he could be out of there and away the 
better. 

The Uf^er story fully supplied him. Fifteen minutes 
later, completely clad in the dead man's clothii^, from socks 
to tie and from boots to felt hat, Arthur made his way back 
into the library. 

In his hand he carried a bundle — every article of cloth- 
ing he had taken off: prison shoes and underwear, tramp's 
rags, greasy " dip " and all. These things he intended 
to destroy. Not a trace of him must be left in the 
house. 

But first he felt the inclination to gaze once more on 
Slayton. The body gave him a certain satisfaction as he 
stood there looking down at it ; yet after all he felt less 
exultant than he had dreamed of feeling. For many months 
he had lusted after this moment, and now that it had come 
the effect was anticltmactic. 

Slayton was dead and he regretted it. He realized now 
that what he had desired had not been Slayton dead, but 
Slayton dying. He had not really longed to have his enemy 
destroyed; he had burned with passion to sense the act of 
destruction. 

And that pleasure had been denied him. The throat be- 
tween his fingers had not been given him to feel. Not his 
to witness the spectacle of death. 



26o THE ALIBI 

« 

With an exceeding bitterness he turned away. Even in 
this he had been outwitted and rebuffed. 

" Cheated, even here 1 " said he. 

His eye swept the desk. It noted the disorder there — 
the blood-spattered papers where Slayton's head had fallen, 
the upset telephone, the spilled clips and pins, always neatly 
kept by the dead man. 

He reached for the telephone and stood it up again, re- 
placing the receiver on the hook. A frown creased his 
brow. Vaguely he sensed a certain uneasiness. 

That telephone — how long had it been lying thus ? Ob- 
viously since the moment the shot had been fired. 

But then might it not have given the alarm? Might not 
some investigator even now be on his way to the house to 
see what the trouble might be ? 

"Damn it! Just my luck I" growled Arthur. "He 
couldn't even kill himself without making a rumpus about 
it I" 

No use, however, in execrating this evil fortune. It 
merely spurred him on to quicker action. 

Was there an)rthing else on that desk that he should 
know about? Swiftly he looked it over. 

A black tin box caught his attention. He flung up the 
cover. Inside he saw something which at first he could not 
identify — something gray, like fur. 

He dropped his bundle of discarded clothing beside the 
desk and raked out the contents of the box. In his hands 
he found a wig and a false beard. 

What the deuce could these be? And why should they 
be there, on Sla)rton's desk? 

Holding them in both hands, he studied them intently 
under the plunging light of the incandescent. All at once 
it seemed as if a flash of understanding dawned on him with 
swift clarity. The look and feel of those gray hairs re- 
called something to his fevered mind — but what? 



TRAPPED? 261 

A moment he stood there, wrestling with himself to 
wrench this half-knowledge out into complete consciousness. 
Then all at once he knew: 

"Those gray hairs in Mackenzie's hand — came — from 
here I " he cried exultantly. 

His eyes blazed with a wild joy. His face, wan with 
prison pallor, twitched in excitement. He understood the 
truth at last. He knew I He knew I 

Trembling, he stuffed the wig and the rest of the make-up 
into the capacious pocket of his overcoat and flung the black 
tin box back whence it had come. Not yet could he fully 
grasp the entire possibilities of his discovery, but he under- 
stood that here perhaps he held a clue of marvelous scope. 

If this belief of his could be proved, what might not 
result ? 

But now he had no time for further thought. He must 
be off and away. He picked up his bundle of rags again, 
turned off the light, and without another look at Slayton 
went back to the kitchen by way of the hall, where too he 
left all in darkness. 

Nothing now remained for him to do save get rid of the 
telltale bundle of clothing and then escape from the locality. 
The little tin alarm-clock on the kitchen shelf marked i.io. 
He had spent only an hour in this house of death. It 
seemed an eternity. 

Ahead of him he still had four or five hours of darkness 
in which to reach New York and go into hiding there in 
some obscure nook or comer. Now that he had clothes and 
funds he could escape. And the city would prove safer 
far than any country place. 

Arthur's two years' association with men of the under- 
world had taught him many things. Now, a fugitive, he 
recalled the evil wisdom of the crook, the cunning of the 
criminal, and knew the city would receive and hide him 
in some " kip " or " ink-pot " till the storm should have 



262 THE ALIBI 

blown over. The name and place of more than one such 
thieves* haven he knew. 

Before having found Slayton, he had thought only of 
revenge, with no care for the aftermath. Now the desire 
for life, for freedom in itself, lay strong upon him. To 
win he must act quickly. He must be on his way. 

He took matches and, bundle in hand, descended into the 
cellar. Here he peered about by the feeble flame of a 
match till he discovered an incandescent. He went to the 
furnace, opened the door, and peered in. Only a dull glow 
of coals was to be seen. Surely there was not fire enotigh 
to make certain that all the clothing, the boots — every- 
thing — would be destroyed. 

He must have wood. By piling the furnace full of wood 
he could insure the destruction of the evidence that he, 
Niunber 3265, Escaped, had been in that house. At his left 
he saw a bin half filled with pine-slab kindling. To this he 
went, stooped, and gathered an armful, threw it into the 
furnace and jammed the bundle of clothes in after it. 

Then he returned for more. 

He stooped again. As he raised another load, the folded 
paper and the wallet in the breast-pocket of his loose-swing- 
ing coat fell out upon the kindling, which slid across them. 

Mansfield perceived this. He hesitated, uncertain 
whether or not to drop the kindling and recover the things at 
once. Chance decided him to wait, a moment. Quickly 
he turned to the furnace and shoved in the second armful. 

A few pieces of pine fell to the cement floor. These he 
picked up and tossed in. He squinted into the furnace, 
made sure the coals were hot enough to ignite the wood, 
and then closed the door. That job at last was done. 

With both hands he brushed his coat and turned back 
toward the kindling-bin to recover the things he had 
dropped. But on the instant he froze to motionless atten- 
tion, every sense alert and quivering. 



TRAPPED? 263 

Outside, a footfall had just become audible. Through 
the half -open cellar- window he heard it plainly, falling with 
staccato resonance on the walk in front of the house. And 
now he heard another — then a voice speaking, and another 
answering. 

Listening, Arthur stood motionless, alert and tense. 
Would the men pass the house or were they coming in? 
On this question ever)rthing depended. He cursed the glar- 
ing incandescent in the basement. Its rays, he knew, must 
be visible through the little cellar- window — not the open 
one — at the front of the house. And he too would be 
visible to anybody coming over the lawn and peering in 
there. The fact that the upper part of the house was all 
dark and that only in the cellar was there any light might 
excite suspicion. 

Bitterly execrating his evil luck, he remained there a mo- 
ment, undecided, at a complete loss what to do. His hand, 
however, slid into his pocket and felt the butt of the auto- 
matic, and was comforted thereby. 

Louder now the footsteps had become, and nearer. They 
were rapidly nearing the house. The voices had fallen 
quiet. Listening intently, Arthur knew the men had turned 
in at the gate and were coming up the walk to the porch. 

Desperately he tried to collect his nerve and rally his 
stampeded wits, but for the moment failed pitiably. A 
kind of horrible stage-fright assailed and gripped him, 
numbing his limbs as in a nightmare. 

The situation exceeded the limits of the appalling. 
Somebody was about to visit the house — the house where 
Walter Slayton lay newly dead. And he, Nimiber 3265, 
was skulking in the cellar with the dead man's clothes upon 
his body and the dead man's pistol in his hand I 

All at once the steps leading up to the porch echoed 
beneath rapid footfalls ; but these were the footfalls of only 
one man. The other — where might he be, and who? The 



264 



THE ALIBI 



porch itself thudded hollowly under the tread of the visitor. 
Now already he had reached the front door. 

Arthur gulped with paralyzing terror. His eyes shifted 
wildly, their pupils dilated by fear till they looked quite 
black by the light of the electric lamp that swung near the 
furnace. He would have put that light out now, had he 
dared ; but he did not dare. That act might have betrayed 
his presence there. But before long, if these men entered 
the house, they would inevitably come down into the cellar. 

Could he find a hiding-place there and hope to escape 
later? If not, could he shoot them as they came down 
hunting him ? Could he fight his way to freedom ? What 
was to be done? 

A sudden passionate hate of the telephone fiared up in 
him, irrational and wild. That accursed thing, he knew, 
had given the alarm. Tipped over by Slayton at the mo- 
ment of death, it had cried, " Trouble 1 " to the Oakwood 
Heights exchange; and now investigation was at hand. 

Investigation — and that could have only one end for 
him. Investigation — and he was trapped like a rat in the 
basen^nt of the house where suicide would surely be spelled 
murder, and where the murderer would inevitably be named 
Number 3265, Escaped! 



CHAPTER XXVIII 

A VOICE IN THE NIGHT 

SUDDENLY the electric door-beU, trilling again up- 
stairs, energized him into action. Whatever might 
happen he must not stand there inert, exposed to ob- 
servation through the cellar-window, and supinely await 
capture. 

He who had suffered so terribly for no crime, he who 
had dared so much for vengeance now forever frustrated, 
would not at any rate throw down his cards at the last mo- 
ment and cry quits. 

At all hazards he would make an effort to go clear. Be- 
fore it should be eternally too late he would strike out for 
the free air, the open road, the way toward New York and 
a chance to hide from the merciless hounding of the law. 

Arthur's wits were coming back to him again, and his 
strength and coolness. He had not passed two years in 
Sing Sing only to lose his nerve now at the first touch of 
peril. 

Noiselessly and quickly he tiptoed to the bin where he had 
dropped the wallet. Money at all events he must have. 
Without that he would be lost. Quickly he took away the 
pieces of wood that had fallen over the wallet and laid them 
down; and all this time, intermittent, strident, loud, the 
hall-bell above-stairs continued to racket through the daiic- 
, ness. 

Now Arthur could see the pocketbook. Now he laid hold 
of it and drew it out from under the last retaining slabs 
of pine. He crammed it into his pocket and stood up, 

a65 



266 THE ALIBI 

leaving the folded paper — that all-precious paper. Slay- 
ton's full confession — still lying hidden. 

He had small time or thought now for a sheet of paper. 
In his hand he held what seemed to him the one essential — 
cash. Now he was armed for all contingencies. A full 
wallet and a loaded automatic may carry a man far. 

Silently he returned to the furnace, while the bell still 
made its futile clamor, to which a vigorous knocking with 
fists and kicking with boots now furnished a contra-bass. 
He slid open the furnace-door, noting with satisfaction that 
the kindling was smoking vigorously and would surely 
flame in a few moments, consuming his discarded clothes. 
Then he closed the door again and took his bearings. 

Almost in front of him he saw the stairs leading up into 
the kitchen. For a moment he was half -tempted to take 
that chance, go back to the kitchen and flee by the door; 
but second thought deterred him. 

The bell had ceased ringing all at once, and the voices 
were sounding again. He heard a heavy step on the porch, 
then a crack! as of breaking metal, and the squeaking of a 
window being raised. 

Swiftly he interpreted the sounds. They meant that a 
policeman, armed with authority, was breaking into the 
house — into the very library, there at the front, where 
Slayton's body lay. And Arthur's nerve for a moment for- 
sook him again. 

He simply could not climb those stairs up to that kitchen. 
Once there he would have to fumble in the dark for the 
door. The lock might baffle him. He might knock some- 
thing over. Most easily he might be trapped there. No; 
not that way did he dare escape. 

There remained then only the cellar-window. Already 
guarded, perhaps? He could not tell. At any rate nothing 
else was left to try. Observing its position, he caught up 
an empty wooden box that was standing by the chimney 



A VOICE IN THE NIGHT 267 

and advanced toward the window. One twist of his wrist, 
and the incandescent died. 

Now utter darkness shrouded him. Even though this 
might give warning of his presence in the cellar, it would 
prevent his being an easy target from without as he should 
clamber through the narrow space. 

Setting the box beneath the window, he stepped upon it, 
caught the sill, and pulled himself through. The task was 
hard to force his way out in silence, but he succeeded. A 
minute later, laced with cobwebs and grimed with coal- 
dust, he crawled free upon a narrow strip of turf between 
the house and the driveway that led to Slayton's garage. 
Here for a second or two he paused to listen. 

Crouching, he gave ear. Outside, all held calm. The 
moon, shrouded again, shed only a ghostly dimness across 
the sky. The vague outlines of a quickset hedge vaguely 
appeared in front of him across the drive. Beyond that all 
was uncertain; but the fugitive sensed that out on that 
expanse of salt marsh, traversed by paths that led to the 
inchoate jumble of summer-camps and shacks along the 
beach, he might find safety for a while. 

Yes, if he could only reach that deserted settlement half 
a mile away to eastward on the edge of New York Bay, 
everything might yet be well with him. 

But could he? 

Already within the house, sounds of excitement told him 
that the body had been discovered. A light now shone out 
through the hall-window above his head, casting a pale yel- 
low band across the drive. This light, he knew, must come 
from the library, through the hall-door, and so out this win- 
dow at the side of the house where he now was. He heard 
vaguely from within quick and interrupted exclamations, 
an oath or two, then staccato sentences that indicated some- 
body was telephoning. 

Not a second was to be wasted now, if ever he were to 



iMn 



268 THE ALIBI 

hope for freedom or for life. To be caught now meant 
worse than a return to Sing Sing for life; it meant the 
death-house, the electric chair, the dissecting-table and the 
unmarked grave. Every fraction of time hung heavy with 
supreme value. 

Half -rising from his hands and knees, he crept with ex- 
treme caution across the graveled drive to the hedge. Here 
he paused again, panting heavily, undecided whether to try 
for the end of it or to break through. The former way 
would take a little time and risk exposure. The latter 
might make a bit of noise and leave damaging clues. 

A sudden opening of the front door and a hasty step on 
the porch decided him. At all hazards he must get that 
hedge between himself and the house. He dropped on all 
fours and pushed through, knowing not what might lie on 
the other side. 

** Hello I Who's there ? " cried a voice, harsh and ang^. 

Arthur knew he had been heard.* Crouching, he ran 
along the side of the hedge away from the street. The 
automatic in his pocket thumped against his body. He 
gripped it and drew it out. Pursued, he would kill. 

" Stop or rU shoot 1 " shouted the man on the porch. 

Arthur heard him running. Then came a thud on the 
gravel. The man had leaped over the rail. 

Panting a little, the fugitive quickened his pace. He 
stumbled over a pail of ashes or something of that sort, 
and fell sprawling onto a rubbish-heap that cut his hands 
with broken bottles and tore the knees of his trousers ; but 
still he held on to the pistol. Up he scrambled, and now 
with the unseen challenger — a patrolman whom the tele- 
phone-man had met on the way to the house — in full cry 
after him, ran at his best speed down a long, vague path 
toward the beach. 

Three crackling concussions and three little spits of fire 
from the patrolman's gun told him the officer meant to kill. 



A VOICE IN THE NIGHT 269 

Qose past him zooned the bullets ; but by that dim light the 
pursuer's aim could not hold true. 

Arthur halted a second, wheeled and sent a volley back 
in answer. He heard a curse from the vague figure there 
some two hundred yards behind him. And all at once the 
figure ceased rtmning and b^;an to hobble, f utilely banging 
away. 

The fugitive laughed with harsh merriment. 

" You're winged now, and you can't catch me 1 " he 
shouted in defiance. " I've got plenty of ammunition here. 
Now if you want me, come along." 

No answer. The policeman fired a few more shots, all 
wild, and then limped back toward the house. Arthur 
laughed again. 

" Good night I " he called, then turned once more and at 
a brisk trot set off for the beach settlement. 

As he ran he thought. For the moment he knew he was 
safe from interference. The officer could not pursue, and 
the other man would never risk it. The best they could 
do would be to telephone for help. Reenforcements could 
hardly reach them inside of half an hour. Perhaps an hour 
might elapse before others would take up his trail. Arthur 
blessed the lucky-chance shot and jogged along, peering 
keenly in the gloom. 

A few minutes and he had come out through the nexus 
of pools, canals, muddy brooks and rush-grown swamps to 
the long dunes edging the sea. The edge of the beach was 
sharply defined. Here, salt marsh. Six feet farther, 
beach. Arthur's feet now sank far into the white, dry 
sand. He nodded approvingly. Few men, he knew, could 
ever track him through a shifting trail like that. 

Hanless save for the general idea that he would make 
his getaway to the city by some means or other, he trudged 
northward along the edge of the beach, fringed by tall 
grasses and coarse weeds. The place spoke to him of lib- 



270 THE ALIBI 

erty. Even though this should be his last hour of life, it 
was a free hour. 

Behind him and at his left, nothing save the marshes and 
a far-oflf light that meant the house of Slayton — just a 
vague glimmer across the waste land. Over him a clouded 
November sky with a moon impotent to pierce the veil. 
At his right hand the solemn, moving mystery of the 
sea. 

He could hear it murmuring with vague complaint along 
the sands. The wild, free smell of it was perfume to his 
nostrils, long used to the fetid prison air of Sing Sing. 
Vaguely the deserted buildings loomed along the lip of the 
sea. The fugitive laughed with an abandon of joy, kicked 
the sand in big jets, ran along the beach and breathed his 
lungs full of ozone. Not a soul anywhere near to spy on 
him or to pursue — as yet. He was all, all alone with the 
night, the sands, the moving clouds, the moon, the ceaseless 
creaming murmur of the surf. 

Presently Arthur's exultant mood passed. Even though 
not one human being was in sight, nor any light nearer 
than the duU-green starboard-light of some vague schooner 
beating out to sea not far offshore, yet he realized he was 
still within the boundaries of Greater New York, and that 
ere long thousands of police, detectives and private indi- 
viduals would be keenly watching for him. 

This seeming liberty of his was merely illusory. He 
might run and shout and gambol never so much along the 
dark sands by the Lower Bay ; yet still about him the iron 
ring was closing and the vast net being flung. 

Every exit from Staten Island, he knew, would soon be 
closely guarded. The whole area of it would be combed 
for him. If he remained there, no matter how carefully 
he might hide, a day or two — a week, at the outside — 
would find him in the clutch of the law once more. And 
after that — 



A VOICE IN THE NIGHT 271 

Shuddering, he seemed to awaken from his illusion of 
freedom. He paused now, faced the sea, and thought : 

"What next?" 

Many things now stood in his favor, which two hours 
before he had not possessed. Then he had been starving, 
unarmed and in rags, without a cent in his pocket or a 
thought in his heart save one — Slayton's death. Now he 
was full-fed, warmly and finely dressed, with a formidable 
gun juid with new-born ambitions for liberty per se, not as 
an end to vengeance. A new thought had been bom to 
him — the possibility of getting clean away at last; of be- 
ginning life again somewhere ; of really being once more a 
man. 

He raised his left hand and struck his right fist into the 
palm of it with violence. 

" By God, I will ! " cried he. 

His back had straightened now, and into his eyes a new 
look had come — something almost of the old, brave, hon- 
est look that Enid had so loved. Through his fresh con- 
sciousness of possibilities of life perhaps still ahead of him 
did there flit some thought of the girl, some hope, some 
prayer? Who shall say? 

Severed as he was from her, and standing under the 
shadow of death, still in his heart he knew his innocence. 
He knew the goad that had driven him to lust after the 
death of Slayton. Had he not sought to turn on that Judas, 
he had not been a man. In his own soul he fotmd his judg- 
ment: 

" Not guilty I " 

And as he faced the sea he raised his eyes to the vast 
moving wonder of it, and once more cried : 

" I will ! " 

This mood of exaltation passed, and now he began taking 
definite steps toward safety. His calculating shrewdness 
returned. He forgot to be thrilled now by night and sea. 



272 THE ALIBI 

He put away aspiring, visionary thoughts of Enid, and be- 
gan figuring ways and means. 

Calculatingly he observed the prospect. For a getaway 
it was not encouraging. Far across the Bay a long neck- 
lace of shining beads marked the lights of G)ney. Away 
off to southeast the intermittent stab of Sandy Hook Light 
pierced the night. 

The sea attracted him. More dangerous than the land in 
its own being, it now had become far safer as regarded 
mankind. Untracked, if he could find a boat, he could 
escape from the Island. The risk of being swamped, car- 
ried out to sea, or run down by some big craft was dwarfed 
by the certainty of capture on the Island. 

With an appraising glance he observed the lights of Coney. 
The distance, he knew, could not be more than ten miles. 
With fair luck in a reasonably decent boat he ought to 
make it in three hours. He could land anywhere along 
the beach, make his way to some car-line, and reach Man- 
hattan before daybreak. Surely the police would hardly 
watch the trains from Coney Island for him. Once he 
could cross the Bay he knew that a vast step would be taken 
toward the longed-for goal, liberty. 

Huge difficulties still confronted him, he knew; but at 
least a chance of success existed. He wanted no more than 
that — a fighting chance. 

With a definite purpose in view he once more advanced. 
A boat I He must have a boat ! 

But where was a boat to be found? Along the beach 
perhaps, drawn up in front of or between the shacks. Yes, 
a bare possibility existed that one might be discovered 
there. 

But even so, Arthur reflected, the season was long past, 
and any boat here would probably have been many weeks 
out of the water. It might leak badly. No matter I 
Leaky or not, if once he could discover a boat, into the surf 



A VOICE IN THE NIGHT 273 

it would go, and away with him on the dubious night- jour- 
ney across the Lower Bay. 

Arthur turned toward the line of shacks. He stiunbled 
upon a rough sidewalk built of rotten planks and ships' tim- 
bers cast up by the sea. Along it he plodded, peering 
everywhere for the longed-for sight of a hull. 

Not a single light was visible anywhere &mong the camps 
and shacks. Rough-built structures they were, framed of 
much the same materials as the sidewalk that did common 
service for the whole irregular community. Every possible 
degree of rudeness and ugliness could have been seen there, 
had the light sufficed. There they stood, a mournful file, 
ragged and unclean, with the salt marsh behind them and 
the refuse-littered beach in front. Arthur, straining his 
eyes by the vague whitish glimmer of the shrouded moon, 
thought that in all his life he never had beheld so ugly or 
so strange a settlement. 

Humming to himself, peering everywhere as he advanced, 
he kept along the sidewalk. A growing anxiety was be- 
ginning to possess him. 

What if after all no boat was to be found? What then? 

The prospect was not one to be faced with, equanimity. 
He would not admit it as a possible event. Surely in a 
place like this at least one boat must have been left ! 

All at once Arthur stopped short, a curious tightening at 
his heart. 

He had thought himself a mile at least from any human 
being; and yet suddenly the unmistakable smell of burning 
tobacco had been wafted to his nostrils. 

Standing motionless and alert, unable to believe his 
senses, he sniffed the breeze. Yes I There could be no 
mistaking the smell — it was tobacco I 

A quick wave of fear ran over him. 

Who could be there? Had he been seen? Could he 
still retreat unobserved? 



274 THE ALIBI 

Wild-eyed, he peered ahead at the shacks. At first he 
could perceive no sign of life, even though the tobacco- 
smell persisted and strengthened. Then suddenly he ob- 
served a dull reddish glow in a doorway just beyond the 
shack where he had stopped. 

This glow waxed and waned. No doubt about it ; a dottel 
of tobacco was burning in a pipe. 

Arthur's presence of mind reasserted itself. Perhaps he 
had not yet been noticed. Quickly he dropped on hands and 
knees, slid off the walk on the landward side, and started 
creeping through the sand with the hope of putting the shack 
between himself and the unseen smoker. 

Forgotten now for the moment was the campaign in quest 
of a boat. Forgotten all his plans. Forgotten everything 
save just the one supreme hope of escaping detection in the 
deserted village where he had thought no living creature 
still remained. 

Ten feet he crept — fifteen — twenty. Already he 
thought himself safe. Already the bulk of the shack was 
near to hiding that little, sullen glow of red. 

In a minute more Arthur knew that he could rise and 
steal away soundlessly through the sand — away around 
the building at his left — down the beach again — any- 
where, just so it should be away from that unseen and un« 
known man. 

At that very instant, however, the red blur of the pipe 
described an arc in the gloom, indicating that its owner had 
removed it from his mouth. 

Then, harsh above the murmur of the surf upon the 
beach, hoarse, raw and repellant, a voice came through the 
night to him: 

"Hey, there! Who the Hell are you? An' what you 
doin' round here?" 



CHAPTER XXIX 

IN THE beach-comber's SHACK 

STRUCK motionless by this direct challenge, Arthur 
remained where he was, tmable to speak or move. 
A terrible anguish assailed him. At one blow his 
plans had all been shattered. Now in the very hour of 
probable success he was confronted by failure, ruin and de- 
struction. The moment was bitter with the gall of defeat. 

Again the harsh voice sounded: 

" Come along out o' that, you I Come along or 111 bring 
yuhl" 

Arthur realized that evasion or attempted flight would 
now be worse than useless. He must face this unknown 
man, and bluff or bribe his way through. With quick wits 
and a fat wallet he might still travel far, despite every- 
thing. 

And at the last resort he had the automatic. 

On the instant all the softening, refining and ennobling 
influences of freedom, of night, of memories and hopes had 
once more vanished. All thoughts of Enid had taken swift 
flight. Now the cunning and the wiles bf the hunted 
prison-animal had dominantly surged back. At that hail, 
good had quitted the boy, and evil had once more laid its 
blighting, withering clutch upon him. 

Arthur stood up, faced the unseen man with the pipe, 
and advanced toward him through the loose sand. 

" Who are you anyhow?" he demanded boldly. 

The other ripped off a string of oaths. 

" Say, you cert'nly got some nerve, you," he retorted^ 

275 



276 THE ALIBI 



t4 



to be asldn' me who / am ! Come on out o' that, now ! 
I won't have no sneak-thieves nor nunmies hangin' round 
my place this time o' the mornin' ! " 

" Who's a thief and rummy?" demanded Arthur angrily. 
"You be careful!" 

The smoker laughed sneeringly. 

" Come here ! Come here ! " he reiterated. ** Let's have 
a slant at you." 

He rose from where he was sitting, advanced to Arthur 
and suddenly flasned an electric beam in his face. Startled, 
the fugitive blinked and stepped back a pace. The other 
laughed again. 

" Got your goat; hey, kid? " he jested clumsily. " Well, 
who are you an' what you doin' here ? " 

By the vague reflection of the beam Arthur sensed that 
the fellow was a hulking, big-shouldered brute with an evil 
countenance. The rank pipe still between his jaws emitted 
noxious f tunes. The fugitive felt a strong impulse to draw 
his gun and shoot the ruflian down — some beach-combing 
tough, scoured off the city's dives and slums, no doubt. 
But he restrained himself. Even though this man stood 
squarely in his path to liberty he would not kill — yet 
Who are you? " once more demanded the beach-comber. 

Strike me blind ! Spit it out I " 

Swiftly Arthur thought. To frame any kind of passable 
story, he knew, would be totally impossible. This type of 
man, shrewd and evil, would fathom any lie that he could 
tell. The only possible course must be the frontal attack 
of bribery. 

What's that to you who I am ? " he therefore parried. 
What's it to me? A lot! This here's my property, 
see?" 

He jerked a thumb at the shack behind him. 

" I won't have no — " 

''Oh, forget ill" interrupted Arthur. "Your whole 



u 



ti 

it 






IN THE BEACH-COMBER'S SHACK 277 

damned place isn't worth a minute of my time. I could 
buy out the whole strip of dumps here, and then some, and 
never feel it. If a man happens to have business out here 
and then happens to want to get back to the city, do you 
kick ? Are you a wise guy or not ? " 

Silence a moment. The electric beam went out, and the 
pipe glowed strongly. The man was pondering. 

" Say ! What you givin' us, anyhow ? " he suddenly de- 
manded. 

But though the words were hostile, Arthur sensed the 
change in tone. Already he had succeeded in establishing 
a line of communication. 

What d'yuh mean ? " the tough challenged. 
That's nothing to you what I mean," Arthur replied, 
lowering his voice. " Anybody else round these diggings ? 
Anybody rubbering?" 

"Nope. Why?" 

" D'you want a bundle of kale? " 

The question, point-blank, struck the ruffian a heavy blow. 
The blow went home right enough. 

" Kale ? " he demanded eagerly. 

" Kale is right. I've got enough for us both." 

"What for?" 

"What do you mean, what for?" 

" What do you want o' me ? " 

" A boat." 

"A boat, hey? Getaway? Is that it?" 

" You've got me right. How about it ? " 

The smoker pondered again, then nodded toward the 
doorway of his shack. 

" Come along up an' we'll chew this thing out, kid," he 
answered. 

His tone had greatly moderated now. Perfectly well he 
understood — or thought he understood — that he was deal- 
ing with some crook or dweller of the imderworld. From 



278 THE ALIBI 

that very moment his hostility was beginning to melt. A 
kindred spirit was developing. Arthur's line of action had 
been unerringly correct; the only possible one at all under 
the circumstances. The instinct developed by his weary 
months in Sing Sing could not fail him now. 

Well-pleased, he followed the man up to the rough porch 
of the ramshackle building perched on the dune. Already 
he felt that the situation was well in hand. How much 
money he had in the wallet he did not know, but whatever 
the sum might be, he would give it all if need were for es- 
cape. He felt it must surely be enough — more than enough 
for this emergency. 

" Sit down an' let's have it," the fellow directed, flinging 
his hand at the edge of the porch. " Shoot ! " 

" There's nothing to it except that I want a boat, and 
want it bad," answered Arthur, sitting down beside him. 

The other sucked at his pipe. 

" How much is there in it for me, and where do you want 
to go?" 

" Land me anywhere in Brooklyn or New York, and 111 
split the bundle with you. Can you do it ? " 

" Oh, I can do it, all right, all right 1 I've got a twenty- 
two-foot motor-boat in a cove back here. But the bundle 
— how high does she run?" 

"Search mel I don't know." 

"What? Ain't looked at it yet? Ain't weeded the 
leather?" 

"Haven't had time. Whatever it is, I'll go fifty-fifty. 
Isn't that O. K.? Take a chance?" 

" Sure I will ! " the other exclaimed with elation. 
" You're * right,' I see. But you must want a boat some to 
put over an offer like that ! " 

" You're right I do. And I want it quick. Get busy I " 

" Sure m get busy. But we'll split first. Let's have a 
once-over at the package." • 



IN THE BEACH-COMBER'S SHACK 279 



it 

ft 



That's fair. Give us your flash-light here." 
Nothin' doin'l Come inside. I got to get some gas, 
anyhow, for the old boat. And some clothes, too. It's 
goin' to be some chilly sailin', bo. No; come in an' well 
have a look at what you got. Say I " 

"What?" 

" Didn't I hear some firin' off there somewhere, half an 
hour ago, or maybe fifteen minutes? " 

"Firing?" Arthur parried. 

" M-m-m-huh ! I just now happened to think of it. 
This surf here makes some noise. I didn't know for sure. 
Was there some gatts goin', kid? Good play with the old 
pepper-pots, or how?" 

" Search me 1 " denied Arthur. '' / didn't hear any- 
thing." 

"Didn't, eh?" asked the other suspiciously. "Well, 
maybe not. I kind of thought perhaps you was in on it. 
None o' my funeral, of course ; but — " 

" Forget it and let's get busy with that boat 1 " exclaimed 
the fugitive, standing up and waiting for the other to light 
the way. " Nothing that's past amounts to a damn now. 
I want your boat, and I'll cough up right for it. So go 
to it!" 

The ruffianly fellow grumbled a moment to himself in- 
coherently, then turned and flung open a rickety door. The 
flash of his electric beam flicked white light on rough walls 
and disorder. Arthur, none too well pleased by this turn 
of affairs, yet in his desperation forced to chance it, fol- 
lowed. 

Inside the door he paused, peering about him with the 
wise caution that had come to birth in him through his 
prison experience. At his right, a mulling fire of drift- 
wood-knots showed a fireplace of rough brick. The dull 
glow of it lighted a squalid room, singularly disordered. 
Arthur had barely time to note more than this general im- 



'-j^^'M^anv 



280 THE ALIBI 

pression, when his host struck a match and lighted a tin 
lamp on the table. 

The unshaded light revealed a wretched interior — a 
rough-boarded room with a few nets hung on nails along 
the walls ; a stove on three legs and a brick ; a tumbled iron 
cot; dirty cooking-things; miscellaneous odds and ends of 
iron and ship-chandlery in one comer, gleaned from the 
beach ; a barrel nearly full of corks near the door. 

Beside the fireplace lay a heap of driftwood, drying. The 
only discordant note in the whole symphony of squalor was a 
telephone on the table, standing among unwashed dishes. 

That telephone struck Arthur with a peculiar and dis- 
quieting force. 

What could its use be? Why had it been installed in that 
lonely hovel out there on the edge of nowhere ? What pos- 
sible use could a broken-down beach-comber and casual 
fisherman have for a telephone ? 

Turning these questions in his mind, Arthur looked at 
the man himself, curious to know what manner of creature 
now held fate in his hands. 

The strange fellow was bent over the fire, poking at it 
with a long iron bar that had once done duty aboard ship. 
Arthur could not see his face as yet. He had caught a 
glimpse of it when the man had lighted the lamp, but had 
not yet been able to Jorm any clear picture of his host. 
Now, however, as the man turned with some grumbled 
words of complaint about the chill dampness of the No- 
vember air on the marsh, the fugitive saw him plainly and 
frowned. 

His was, in fact, a face to give most men pause. In 
Arthur's plight it seemed doubly disquieting. Nothing 
good, everything evil was written there in lines of disease, 
hardship, vice and crime. King Alcohol had set his brand 
on that low countenance ; and wicked thoughts and purposes, 
bad deeds and criminal schemings had well seconded his 



IN THE BEACH-COMBER'S SHACK 281 

work in making the man an object of repulsion and of 
fear. 

The chin was square and bristled with a pepper-and-salt 
stubble ; the nose was broken and twisted awry, as though by 
a terrific blow ; a scar lividly wealed the right temple from 
the eyebrow up into the tangle of unkempt hair now dis- 
closed as the man flung his sou'wester upon the floor and 
kicked it away into a comer. 

All this was of ill augury; but his eyes were still worse 
— his eye rather, for he had but one. The left had been 
gouged out in some of his obviously numerous battles, and 
now the lid drooped empty. The remaining optic blinked 
red, inflamed with drink and smoke; an evil eye if ever 
man possessed one ; the eye of a human beast of prey. 

Arthur surveyed this person, clad in a reefer, a torn black 
sweater and a neckerchief, supplemented by corduroy trou- 
sers and sea-boots. So violently unpleasant was his impres- 
sion that he could not entirely suppress its effect in his 
look. The beach-comber observed this and grinned mali- 
ciously, showing broken and yellowed teeth. 

" I ain't such a much in the beauty line, am I ? " he ejacu- 
lated. " No, strike me dead ! I ain't no Venus de Medi- 
cine, and that's a fact. But what d'you expect? We can't 
all run a high grade of work like you. Some of us has to 
pull the rough stuff. So what you kickin' about ? " 

" I'm not kicking," replied Arthur. " Cut it, cut it, and 
get busyl Get your things on, cop the gas, and I'll split 
even with you, whatever I've got. Go to it, now ! " 

For a moment the man seemed about to obey. He nod- 
ded, turned and shuffled toward the fireplace, the iron bar 
still in his hand. Then he stopped and once again faced 
Arthur. 

" Suppose you make that two-thirds ? " he suggested. 
" The price of livin' is dognation high down here, 'specially 
gas ; and what little I can pick up on the beach don't amount 



282 THE ALIBI 

to a damn. It ain't worth a celluloid cat in Hell. Corks 
used to bring — ** 

" Oh, forget it I " interrupted Arthur, his temper rising. 
" Fifty-fifty, I said, and that goes ! " 

"Nothin' doinM" 

"What?" 

"It's my boat, ain't it?" 

" See here, are you trying to skin me alive?" 

" You can pay it — an' you're goin' to, see ? Now, dig ! " 

No mistaking the look in that one glowering eye. Arthur 
felt his temper getting the upper hand. The man obviously 
had determined to wring him dry or hold him up altogether. 
The drag of the pistol in his pocket gladdened him. A little 
more now, and — 

" Well, how about it ? " demanded the thug. " Are you 
goin' to cough, or ain't you? Maybe you'd like to hoof it 
up the bay with all the bulls scoutin' after you? " 

" Is that right ? " asked Arthur. " Two-thirds, and you 
do the job?" 

The other nodded. 

" When I say I'll do a thing, I do it I "he growled. 

He peered curiously at Arthur a moment, then again came 
nearer. 

" Say, bo 1 " he demanded roughly. 

"What is it now?" 

" Where d'you get that hair-cut ? " 

" None of your damned business 1 " 

"Uptheriver — eh, kid?" 

"What of it? You've been there yourself, I bet a mil- 
lion?" 

"Maybe I have, maybe I have I Some place, ain't it? 
Strike me blind, but it's some place I A con would come 
across with everything he's got, wouldn't he, to beat a 
dump like that ? " 

With a quick gesture of his left hand he knocked Arthur's 



IN THE BEACH-COMBER'S SHACK 283 

hat off. Arthur flung up his arm, but too late. The hat — 
Sla)rton's black felt — spiraled away and fell upon the dirty 
table. 

" Some hair-cut ! That's right ! " gibed the ruffian. " I 
got your number, bo. That an' your white-paper face 
would give you a free pass back to Sing Sing any day. 

"Just out, hey? And a fresh job on your hands? An' 
them after you? Say, look a' here! No two-thirds goes 
now — see? You hand over the whole wad, kiddo, or — 
Get me?" 

He leered horribly at the telephone. 

" Come across ! Come across ! " he menaced, squaring 
his jaw. " It's worth it." 

Infuriated as Arthur was, trembling with passion and 
hate, he still recognized the infinite advantage this brute 
possessed. Without his help everything was lost. Against 
his opposition nothing could be done. Arthur knew that he 
must yield, even to the ultimate penny. 

" Take it all, you hog ! " he cried bitterly. " After it's all 
gone you can't get any more, anyhow. Here — take it! 
And get busy ! Now that you've cleaned me out, get busy 1 " 

He drew out the wallet, opened it, and pulled out bills — 
greenbacks, yellowbacks — without even trying to count 
them. He flung them on the table, all but a single " X." 

" Here, you, quit holdin' out on me ! " snarled the ruffian. 

" You can spare me this, to stake me when I strike the 
city. I haven't got a cent of my own, I tell you. You've 
got to let me have this ten 1 " 

" Like Hell I will ! You got an overcoat there you can 
put up for a little coin. You got friends. You can make* 
a touch. I need the coin — see ? And — Here 1 Gimme 
that now 1 Quit your holdin' out ! " 

With his left hand — the right still held the poker — the 
thug snatched both wallet and bank-note. His brows wrin- 
kled in a villainous, low expression as with his single red 



284 



THE ALIBI 



eye he studied the pocketbook. Then a change came over 
his face. His mouth dropped open. The yellow teeth 
showed. He stared at Arthur in amaze. 

" Say, strike me blind I " he ejaculated. " If it ain't 
Slayton's poke I " 

" What — what d'you mean ? " gasped Arthur. " You — 
know him ? " 

" Know him ! Do — I — know him ? " bellowed the other 
in a passion. " He asks me if I know him ! Me, hired to 
watch an' keep him from — from — " 

"What?" 

The thug made a quick step, seized Arthur's overcoat and 
flung it back. 

" His overcoat ! His suit ! You got his suit on I " 

I^e turned, snatched up the hat from the table, and peered 
inside it. There he saw three little gold-paper letters : 



W. H. S. 



" His lid I " 

Arthur faced him, livid. 

"What's the matter with you, anyhow?" he demanded 
hotly. " Crazy, or what ? " 

" You've cleaned out Slayton ? " roared the beach-comber, 
his face a study of wicked rage. " You've maybe croaked 
him, hey? You've croaked my meal-ticket, have you? " 

" Can that and get busy with the boat ! " cried Arthur, 
shaking with rage. " You've got the wad ; now go to it ! 
Get to work ! " 

" Work ! Ha ! I'll get to work, all right, you son of a 
dog ! But it won't be the kind o' work you mean. No boat 
for yours, kid! Nix on the boat! The only boat you'll 



IN THE BEACH-COMBER'S SHACK 285 

get will be the Black Maria. I'll boat you, all right, all right 
— strike me dead if I don't ! " 

Wheeling, he reached for the telephone. Arthur stag- 
gered back, horror-stricken. 

" You — won't do that ! Not that I " 

"Won't, hey?" 

He brandished the heavy poker in a gesture of deadly 
menace. 

" I won't? You just wait an' see ! " 

Arthur's eye measured the distance to the door. The ruf- 
fian stood between him and it with the iron bar in hand. 
A sudden madness possessed the fugitive. Something like 
a red haze seemed to swim before his eyes. Now, just at 
the very moment of escape, this hideous, vicious, degraded 
creature for some unknown reason was about to deliver him 
to the police. 

Arthur's hand slid into his pocket. It closed over the 
butt of the automatic. On the instant the ugly black 
weapon whipped up into the air. 

With a beast-like cry the thug sprang and struck. The 
iron bar smashed on Arthur's forearm just as he pulled trig- 
ger. The report crashed through the room; splinters flew 
from the floor. 

The fugitive's arm dropped, paralyzed. He tried to duck, 
to guard with the left elbow ; but the swinging bar caught 
him. Fair on the head its crushing impact descended. No 
hair shielded the boy's skull. His brain took the full shock 
of the savage blow. 

Reeling, he crashed against the table and fell. Black 
obscurity mercifully enwrapped him in its pall. 



CHAPTER XXX 

A LIFE-OR-DEATH CHANCE 

A VAGUE consciousness of pain, mingled with a 
steady, drumming roar, ushered the fugitive back 
into the living world again. Where the pain might 
be or what the roar might mean he could not tell. He knew 
only that he was lying motionless somewhere; that a dim 
gray light crossed by black lines now appeared and now 
vanished ; and that mingled with the drumming sound came 
momentary gusts and shakings as of a great wind. 

So much he seemed to sense a while, then again relapsed 
into vacancy. But before long he found himself awake 
once more ; and now with greater clarity he could take cog- 
nizance of his surroundings, his bodily condition and his 
prospects. 

The pain, he found, was localized in head and right fore- 
arm. The one he could move ; the other, strive as he might, 
remained fixed. Not quite understanding, he blinked at the 
gray light, perceived it was a small-paned window, and now 
recognized the place where he lay — the villainous beach- 
comber's shack on the dunes. 

Memory of everything returned, and with it energies 
that had lain in abeyance he could not tell how long. Some 
hours obviously ; for when the iron bar had struck him down 
it had been black night, and now the leaden hue of a rain- 
swept November morning showed him the ugly desolation 
of the hovel. 

Arthur's first impulse on regaining even partial compre- 
hension was to cry out, to struggle, to fight his way clear 
of the obstacles that only too clearly were detaining him. 
But his shrewd keenness, product of the cell, whispered : 

"Nol" 



A LIFE-OR-DEATH CHANCE 287 

He therefore continued to He still, there on the iron cot 
where he now found himself. And, lying thus, he took stock 
of his own status and that of his surroundings. 

His head was surely wounded, though how badly he could 
not know, since both his arms were securely lashed to his 
sides and his whole body was immobile. He could neither 
stir nor lift a hand to hb aching cranium. The right arm, 
as he tried to tense the muscles, gave him exquisite anguish. 
It seemed swollen, too. Rightly he judged that the blow 
with the poker had broken one of the bones. With a grim- 
ace of pain he raised his head and cautiously peered round. 
Even though he could not move, he might at least take ob- 
servations on his prospects. 

The room was as he had seen it the night before, save 
that by the dull morning light it looked even uglier and more 
depressingly filthy. On the hearth the fire had died down 
to powdered white ash, with here and there a vagrant spark 
of red that winked and blinked at him as in derision. A 
fire was burning smokily in the stove, on which stood a cof- 
fee-pot and some other utensils, all dirty and rusty. Mo- 
mentarily the smoke gusted out, driven down the rust-red 
pipe by the buffets of the sea-wind. 

Along that pipe dripped and drizzled rain-water, seeping 
in through a crack in the piece of tin where the pipe went 
through the wall. This water ran down the pipe till the 
heat of the fire sizzled it into steam. The roof and the whole 
crazy structure groaned, creaked and rattled under the drive 
of the storm that had come up from the sea in the wake of 
the thickening clouds of the night before. At some par- 
ticularly vicious drive it seemed almost as though the shack 
would be bowled clean off the dune and fltmg over into the 
salt marsh behind it. 

Arthur, exhausted by his straining observations, lay back 
on the cot where he was now a prisoner and tried to think. 
Just what had been the cause of the beach-comber's attack 



288 THE ALIBI 

he could not fathom. Just what was now going forward he 
knew not. But he understood in a general way that evil for- 
tune had led him into the power of some dependent or at- 
tache of Slayton, and that now nothing was written on the 
books for him save delivery into the hands of the police, and 
then Sing Sing, and then — death. 

Arthur laughed bitterly. He did not struggle. Weak- 
ness and suffering had rendered him powerless, he knew, to 
break the bonds that the vicious beach-comber had knotted 
about him during his unconsciousness. Cruelly tight those 
cords were, cutting his flesh in numb lines and ridges. He 
could hardly stir in them. Evidently the fellow had not en- 
tertained the slightest idea of letting his prisoner escape, 
even though the lashings should cut and paralyze him. Not 
even the protection of the overcoat now shielded Arthur 
from the net cording. The thug had peeled this off the help- 
less fugitive, and now it hung behind the stove on a peg with 
Slayton's hat atop. 

'•Heyl Hello! Hello!" Arthur suddenly haUed. 
" Where are you ? " 

The eflFort made him wince with pain in head and arm. 
Yet he repeated the call. Where the rufRan might be he 
knew not ; but if within hearing he might consent to loosen 
the bonds a little. Surely, now that Arthur was unarmed 
and wounded, he could not refuse to ease the cords a bit. 

No answer to the cry. Nothing save that steady pound- 
ing of the rain, the slatting of the wind against the hovel, 
and the rising, falling, never-ceasing thunder of the surf 
along the sands. 

Arthur lay quiet a while, trying in vain to ease his suffer- 
ing. Added to the physical torment, greater agonies assailed 
him — swift, vivid pictures of events now sure : recapture, 
the cell, trial on another murder charge, conviction, the 
death-house, the chair, the end of everything under the glare 
of merciless incandescents, with black-coated doctors and 



A LIFE-OR-DEATH CHANCE 289 

scientists watching his death-agonies produced by a calm 
electrician at a switchboard. 

The hideous injustice of it all maddened him. Neither 
the first crime nor the second had he committed ; yet for the 
first he had received life imprisonment, and had already 
served two years in Hell. For the second he was bound to 
die, murdered in cold blood by a blind, deaf, inexorable 
power of injustice called the State. 

If Arthur had cursed Steyton before, ten times more bit- 
ter now his curses were. The Judas had first betrayed and 
crucified him, and then in dying had with horrible cynicism 
buried him beneath the crushing weight of fresh accusations. 
The exquisite irony of the situation wrought powerfully on 
the boy's fevered mind. He laughed again, then cursed, 
then struggled — heedless now of all his pain — then howled 
in rage and vain appeal. 

At last, exhausted, he lay still ; and all at once again, as 
at first in the Tombs and later in Sing Sing, thoughts of his 
mother and of Enid Chamberlain drifted across his mind to 
soothe and comfort him. He saw the dead mother's smile, 
the lost sweetheart's loving, trustful, appealing eyes. 
Through the rain-drive and the wind and surf he seemed to 
hear echoes of those words that two years ago had stayed 
and solaced his sad heart: . 

Yea, though I walk in the valley of the shadow of death, I will 

fear no evil, for Thou art with me. Thy rod and Thy staff, they 

comfort me . . . 

• •••••••• 

Arthur awoke from an uneasy, fevered sleep, opened his 
eyes and beheld the beach-comber standing there before him 
in a suit of disreputable oilskins, dripping and drizzling like 
a huge, evil water-rat. Whence the man had come he knew 
not ; but there he stood, grinning and leering with that single 
inflamed eye of his. Arthur's face contracted with repul- 
sion and hate. 



290 THE ALIBI 

" Sleepin' like a baby, so nice an' c(»nf ortable, hey ? " 
pbed the ruffian, flinging his hat upon the table. " An' me 
out in Hell's own storm ! It don't seem fair, does it, when 
you tried to croak me with the old puffin'-rod, for me to have 
to go hikin' out in it on your account? An* you layin' so 
nice an' — " 

"Can that!" blurted Arthur. "When are they com- 
ing?" 

"Whocomin'?" 

" The bulls. You've been out pigging on me, of course. 
Well, when?" 

" Wrong, kid ! " retorted the thug. " Back up ! Not that 
I love you, for I don't. But I ain't pigged yet. No need to 
go out for that. I could get 'em on the wire any time. 
Will, too, when I want 'em. But I don't just now." 

" What's the idea ? What did you go for? " 

" Well, as you're my guest I don't mind tellin' you." 

The beach-comber threw oflF his oilskin jacket and kicked 
it under the table. He twirled a chair around by the cot, 
sat down, fished up pipe and tobacco, and fell to smoking. 

"No, I don't mind. Herel Look a' this, will you? 
Some wad comin' down the pike my way — what?" 

From somewhere in his tatters he withdrew a Staten Is- 
land paper, wet and drabbled. This he opened up on his 
knee, then held it before Arthur's eyes. The woimded man 
read: 

BANKER SHOT DOWN 



CASHIER SLAYTON OF THE POWHATAN NATIONAL 
MURDERED IN HIS HOME 

ESCAPED CONVICT SUSPECTED 

$25,000 REWAHD OFFEKED FOR HIS APFBEHENSION 



A UFE-OR-DEATH CHANCE 291 

Speechless, Arthur stared at his captor, who nodded 
amicably in the best of good-humors. 

" Quite a haul Tm goin' to make — eh, bo? " he queried, 
gusting vile smoke toward the leaky roof. '' Some haul ! I 
kind of thought there'd be a good offer out this momin', as 
quick as I doped the lay a bit. So I didn't call 'em, after 
all. No; I waited. Lay low an' wait is a good motto. 
That's what I done, kid. And strike me dead but I was 
right, at that 1 " 

He hit the paper a blow with the back of his hand and 
whirled it over on the table beside his dripping hat. 

" Dead right ! " said he with gusto. " It's all comin' as I 
figgered. Old man Chamberlain, the bank president, 
'phoned that big offer to headquarters; said if the bank's 
directors didn't make good on it he would pers'n'Uy. Well, 
who's goin' to get it, tiie bulls or me? Not them, you bet! 
They jobbed me once an' lagged me for a finif for a job I 
never even touched. No love lost, believe me. 

** Also, I want the stuff, and I'm goin' to have it. No bulls 
here I Nix on that I 'Long towards noon, when it's about 
time for the old buck to breeze into the bank, me for him 
on the wire. Confidential report — see? Reward guaran- 
teed before I tell him where to ccxne. That is, of course, 
if I produce the man, which I will. 

" Get me, kid? Some wise guy — hey? I may not look 
like such a much, but when it comes to puUin' down the 
bundle, I'm there with the bells on, believe me!" 

Arthur watched him with intense repugnance and hatred. 
He longed for release from this degrading bondage. Even 
the police would be welcome, it seemed to him, to rescue him 
from this foul creature, buzzard of tmclean pickings at any 
dirty job. 

" Loosen up on these ropes, can't you ? " he suddenly de- 
manded, while the ruffian sat and smoked with anticipatory 
joy. ** You've got me, all right enough. Busted my arm. 



« 



292 THE ALIBI 

I guess. Beaned me with the poker. Frisked my gun. 
Put me down and out. Now, there's no use cutting mc in 
two with these ropes. Let me up 1 " 
Nothin' doin', kid ! " 
What do you mean ? " 

I mean you're twenty-five thousand bucks, dead or alive 
— see ? I got you where I know where you are, an' you're 
goin' to stay." 

" But I tell you my right arm's broken 1 It's swelling. 
I can't get away. You can loosen me up a little." 

"Nix on the loosenin'! It ain't all on account o' the 
twenty-five thousand, neither. I got other reasons." 

" What reasons ? " 

"Well, for one thing," answered the thug, tamping his 
pipe with a foul thumb, " when you put his nibs, there, up 
the escape, you done me out of a good job. And, besides, 
you went f er to gat me. Now it's my turn. You're there, 
an' there you stay. Get me, Steve?" 

" I get you. What do you mean — I did you out of a 
good job? Were you working for Slayton? And, by the 
way, I didn't croak him, after all. I — " 

''Poof!" spat the beach-comber. "Tell that to 
Sweeney 1 " 

" All right, but that's on the level. No matter, though. 
I don't give a damn what you think, anyhow. What about 
this thing of a good job? Was he emplo)ring you? " 

The beach-comber smoked a moment in silence with his 
single eye blinking at his captive, while rain and surf and 
wind wrought their wild symphony without the shack. 

" I don't know as I mind tellin' you." he finally answered 
with deliberation. " The wad I got off you is in your favor. 
I guess I owe you a little info., if it don't hurt me none. 

" You see, it was this way : I was hired by a gink up in 
the city to kind of look out for Slayton, like. He was a 
queer guy, Slayton was. Sort of down in the mouth at 



A LIFE-OR-DEATH CHANCE 293 

times. Had spells when he kind-a wanted to blow by the 
suicide line. A few times he used to walk out on the iron 
pier down below here an' size up his chances; an he done 
other stunts, too. The marshes interested him a lot. I 
guess I saved his life one or two times, all right, all right 1 " 

" Saved his life? What for?" 

" For so much per, of course. You don't think I gave a 
damn about him any way else, do you ? " 

" You mean your job was to keep an eye on him and head 
him off from — " 

" You're on. Some questioner, ain't you ? But I don't 
care. He's through now, and you're about through. Might 
as well tell you if you want to know. Yes ; I had to watch 
him sometimes an' report on that there wire — see?" 

"Who to?' 

"Oh, a man that had some kind of stake or other in 
keepin' him alive! That was my job — see? My meal- 
ticket. An* strike me dead if you didn't blow along an' put 
the skids under it ! " 

" I get you," said Arthur, beginning to see daylight 
through the mystery. " But look here ! Who could have 
any interest in keeping him alive? What for?" 

"Hell! How do /know?" 

" It wasn't somebody he owed money to, was it? Some- 
body that was getting a rake-off out of him ? " 

The beach-comber shrugged his shoulders non-commit- 
tally. 

" What was his name ? " persisted Arthur. 

"Search me!" 

"Wasit — Jarboe?" 

No answer. But the quick, involuntary start the beach- 
comber made and the furtive glance in his rat-eye convinced 
Arthur he had struck home. 

"It was Jarboe, wasn't it?" he demanded. "An old 
money-shark up back of Trinity?" 



294 THE ALIBI 



"Dead wrong 1" affirmed the ruffian. "It was a guy 
named — named — Brown. A real-estate guy." 

Despite his physical pain and mental anguish, Arthur 
could not help laughing. 

** As a liar, some punk liar 1 " he pbed. " If you didn't 
frame a smoother one than that on the stand, no wonder 
the bulls jobbed you that time. Well, forget it. He's gone, 
anyhow ; and I'm here, and these cords are cutting the eter- 
nal tripe out of mel 

" Loosen up, can't you ? I ask you again. And give me 
a drink of something — anything. I've got a fever, and 
I'm all stove up. Have a heart, can't you?" 

" Drink ? Sure thing ! You're goin' to be worth twenty- 
five thousand to me, bo. I can afford to be generous. 
What 'U it be? Little drop of gin? Mouthful of brandy? 
Rye?" 

" None of those, thanks. Coffee would go better." 

" Coffee's right ! Have all you want." 

" Loosen me up, first." 

"Nix!" 

"Just one hand! Just enough so I can move a little. 
This is paralyzing me, I tell you ! It's worse than the jacket 
up the river! Just one hand out. I'm all in, I tell you, 
with that wallop you gave me and the broken arm ! " 

The beach-comber scratched his head reflectively. Sud- 
denly he nodded. 

" One hand out, hey ? " he asked. " All right ; one goes. 
But no funny biz now, remember. First crack you make I 
give you the gat. Strike me blind if I don't ! " 

Arthur lay back, exhausted with the long conversation 
and the vehemence of his appeal. The thug after a mo- 
ment's hesitation drew Arthur's pistol from the pocket of 
his oilskins and laid it eloquently on the table. Then he 
bent over the cot, undid a few Imots and loosed the cords 



A UFE-OR-DEATH CHANCE 295 

so that Arthur could withdraw his left arm. The right was 
too paralyzed and agonizing to move. 

He then lashed the cords back again as tightly as before. 

" I'll take a chance," he grumbled. " Steve did. Stretch 
now, if you want to. And don't forget I'm on the job; 
see?" 

Arthur flexed and extended his free arm with inexpres- 
sible relief. Over his head he stretched it hard. 

'* That's fine 1 " he exclaimed in gratitude. " Now if you 
could let me have a cup or two of coffee while we're waiting 
for the bank to open — " 

Nodding and grumbling to himself the brutish fellow 
turned toward the stove and began preparing the drink. 

"Time enough! Time enough," said he. "Couple of 
hours yet. Make yourself comfortable, bo. You got a 
lively road ahead o' you ; but for now, make yourself com- 
fortable. 

" Some doin's up at Slayton's, kid. I stopped there a 
while, gettin' that paper. They're havin' a hell. of a time. 
I guess the * front office ' has had the biggest dragnet throwcd 
out they've got. 

" They're after a trail they think they got o' you in the 
city. Two or three have *made' you in Manhattan al- 
ready — an' you here, stowed away safe an' sound in my 
cottage by the sea ! Lucky for you I was here, kid. If I 
hadn't been — " 

" Oh, for Heaven's sake cut that out and let's look at the 
paper ! " interrupted Arthur, maddened by the creature's 
formless monologue. "And then, coffee 1 You owe me 
that much anyway, and more ! " 

Leering, the beach-comber brought Arthur the paper, then 
returned to his coffee-making. Arthur held the paper in his 
left hand and eagerly read the sensational account of the 
crime. Forgotten were his aching head and shattered arm 



296 THE ALIBI 

for the moment, as his eyes devoured the columns of false- 
hoods, wild assumptions, wrong deductions from impossible 
premises and all the vicious tissue of lies once more flung 
out to tangle and to kill him. 

He dropped the paper with a groan. The first case, two 
years ago, had been terrible enough; but not as terrible as 
this. The horror of it surged over him — his near ap- 
proach to escape, the fearful misfortune of his meeting the 
beach-comber, the calamity of his capture by this mercenary 
beast, the swift on-drawing of the inevitable end. Cov- 
ering his eyes with his hand, he gave himself to bitterness 
of the spirit and to anguish of the soul. 

The beach-comber roused him with a shake of the arm. 

" Here's your boot-leg ! " he exclaimed. 

Arthur blinked up at him. 

" Oh, thanks ! " he answered, taking the cup — a heavy 
cup of the ware known as stone china, almost unbreakable 
and of massive mold. 

He raised his head and sipped the "Steaming liquid — a kind 
of chicory hbgwash — with deliberation. Vile though the 
stuff was, it warmed and comforted him. The beach-comber 
stood there near the cot, hands on hips, peering at him with 
that one sinister optic. When Arthur had drained the last 
drop — 

"More?" asked he. 

** Thanks, yes. Just one." 

" All right. Give us the cup." 

He filled it again and brought it back, then sat down on 
a broken chair near the table, picked up the paper Arthur 
had dropped, and bending his one eye close to it, began 
reading the article aloud, halting, mispronouncing, mutilat- 
ing it, and stopping now and then to chuckle with amuse- 
ment and intense satisfaction. 

" Twenty-five thousand beans, hey ? Some rhino ! " he 
jubilated in great good-humor. " I ain't never had much 



A LIFE-OR-DEATH CHANCE 297 

luck ; but now by God ! I make good. Strike me dead if I 
don't — strike me dead ! " 

" Strike me dead ! " 

The phrase transfixed Arthur's vivid attention all in a 
breath of time. 

" Strike me dead ! " 

The captive held in his hand the heavy mug, now half 
emptied of the vile liquid. Calculatingly he weighed it, not 
yet quite sensing its possibilities, but with some vague per- 
ception of them in his mind. 

" Strike me dead 1 " 

Why not? There sat the ruffian hardly eight feet away, 
bent over the paper which he had spread upon the table by 
the pistol — the pistol to be used in case Arthur made one 
single move for freedom, one solitary act of resistance. 

Qose to the paper his one eye had been brought. The 
blind socket was toward Arthur. For the moment the 
captive was positively secure from observation. That mo- 
ment might end ; it might forever pass and be lost and done 
for. That golden opportunity, once fled, could never come 
again. 

" Strike me dead ! " 

It rang and echoed in his feverish brain, seeming to pound 
in his temples with the pounding of his pulses like ham- 
mers on anvils: 

** Strike me dead, strike me dead, strike me dead ! " 

Silently Arthur lowered the heavy cup beside the bed, and 
soundlessly poured out the rest of the coffee on the floor. 
He raised the cup again and swung it to and fro, taking care- 
ful aim. 

The beach-comber, having finished one page of the paper, 
sat up, turned the sheet and then sank down again, without 
having glanced round. Arthur, his heart in his mouth, 
again poised the cup. 

There lay the gun. The threat was clear. Arthur knew 



298 THE ALIBI 

death awaited him in case of failure. Either he must break 
that bestial skull with one blow, or the thug would inevi- 
tably pistol him as he lay there, botmd and helpless, on the 
cot. 

Swiftly he weighed all the chances, and chose action. 
Nothing but death awaited him at any rate — inglorious, 
shameful, horrible death. If he died fighting that were bet- 
ter than to die strapped in the chair, writhing in impotent 
and dumb abandon of unutterable torment. 

Twice, thrice he swung the missile. His eye never for 
one second left the aimed- for spot — the right temple, where 
the cranial bones were thinnest — his only hope for liberty, 
for life. 

Lashed as he was, unable to bring his shoulder-muscles 
into full play, and obliged to use his left arm, the feat be- 
came well-nigh impossible ; but on it life depended. 

Four times he swung the cup, and five. 

Suddenly the beach-comber raised his ugly head a little, 
as though he had finished reading. Slowly he b^;an to turn 
with meditative deliberation. 

A fraction of a second more, and Arthur's last oppor- 
tunity would be past and gone. The doors of Fate would 
clang shut on him forever and forever. 

*' Some rhino I " exulted the thug again, chuckling with 
supreme satisfaction over his haul. "Some real rhino! 
Strike me dead if it ain't 1 " 

Flinging into his strained muscles every ounce of strength 
and nervous energy his battling soul could muster, Arthur 
wrenched himself a little up from his bonds, aimed with 
desperate precision, and pointblank hurled the heavy cup. 



CHAPTER XXXI 

FLIGHT 

SPED With the terrific force and accurate aim of des- 
peration, the missile crashed home full on the scarred 
brow of the beach-comber. 

Hardly a grunt he uttered, but fell backwards, knocked 
clean out — if indeed not killed — while the heavy cup 
skidded across the table, dropped to the fioor and lay there, 
blood-spattered. 

Arthur, staring with wide eyes, trembling and shaking and 
with teeth that clattered in a chill of nervous anguish, be- 
gan tearing with his free left hand at the knots of the cords 
that bound him. The man might be dead — he hoped so 
fervently — or he might be only stunned. His head looked 
a horrid sight as he lay there on the dirty floor. Arthur 
had at any rate won first blood in this battle. 

Could he maintain the advantage? Could he yet escape? 

Everything now depended on haste, should the ruffian be 
only stunned. In case he should revive before Arthur 
could get free, the end would come in short order. The 
pistol, lying there black and ominous on the table, vouched 
for that. 

Savagely the captive toiled. His nails broke and the flesh, 
beneath, commenced to bleed, but he felt nothing. With 
a violent eflFort he managed to get one of the knots within 
reach of his teeth. Fingers and teeth together wrenched 
the cords, worrying them as a dog worries a rat. And all 
at once a knot gave. The supreme gratitude Arthur felt 
at that second had never been surpassed in his life. 

One knot eased another. Desperately he worked. Soon 

299 



300 THE ALIBI 

a second one was loosed — a third — a fourth. Now Ar- 
thur could fling back a whole coil of the stout netting-cord 
He drew it round under the cot and attacked more knots. 
His shoulders were free now — and suddenly his bonds 
seemed to fall away from him. Some master-knot has eased 
them all. He was free I 

Numbed, lame, dizzy, with a horrible sick feeling in the 
pit of his stomach and a blinding pain in his bruised head, 
he managed to draw himself out from the web of lashings 
that the scoundrel had hauled about him, and supporting 
himself with his left hand made shift to sit up on the edge 
of the cot. 

To save his life it seemed to him he could not immediately 
have stood up and walked. His l^s were paralyzed. The 
toes would hardly respond to his will as he tried to move 
them. It seemed as if the whole lower half of his body 
were dead. 

Often at Sing Sing he had heard tales of paralysis from 
the strait- jacket. Now he was experiencing the effects of 
great stricture long applied. Powerless to stand or take a 
step at this most terribly vital moment, he looked upon the 
inert body of the beach-comber and from the bottom of his 
embittered soul heaped vitriol of malediction on the thug. 

The pain in his right arm drew his attention. He pulled 
back the sleeve, examined the bruised and purple fiesh, ob- 
served the swelling and gingerly felt the bone. This caused 
him excruciating pain. 

" Broken, all right," said he. " That's another debt you've 
got to pay, you spawn of Hell ! " 

For the present he could do nothing about his injury. 
Whatever pain it might cause would just have to be borne 
with set teeth. Other and more urgent matters were at 
hand. It was imperative that he should recover the use of 
his legs before the ruffian might revive — if indeed he still 
lived. 



FLIGHT 301 

Arthur rubbed and massaged his own body, thighs and 
legs as vigorously as he could with his one effective hand. 
Soon a prickling sensation commenced, and he knew that 
the circulation was starting in again. Recovery was rapid. 
In three or four minutes he could move his legs a little. In 
ten he had managed to get up on his feet and, by holding to 
the table, to drag himself far enough to get possession of 
the gun. Now let the beach-comber revive! 

It was obvious already that sooner or later the thick* 
skulled brute would come to. Arthur had not after all suc- 
ceeded in making way with him. That massive skull and 
dull brain had resisted the blow, and though the rufiianly 
face and neck were seeped with blood, nothing had resulted 
save a flesh-woimd. 

Another man in Arthur's place might have put the auto- 
matic to that villainous head and finished the job. Almost 
any other would have felt himself justified in that deed. 
But Arthur, despite everything, still shrank from taking 
human life. Twice falsely accused of it, hoimded, harried, 
tortured, ruined and damned for it, even now when murder 
might save his life and free him, he hesitated. 

Twice he brought the gun to bear and twice turned it aside. 
It seemed to him somehow that Enid stood there between 
him and that prostrate hulk of vice and degradation which 
was still a living soul. Not for his life could he pull trigger. 
In a fight he could have shot the thug down; but helpless 
and inert before him the man was absolutely safe. 

Angry at his own weakness, he shoved the pistol into his 
pocket, with an oath. Kneeling beside the unconscious 
brute, he examined the injury. He saw it was superficial. 
The effects would soon pass. That meant Arthur must take 
immediate measures to restrain the beast when he should 
awaken from his stupor. 

Leaving the beach-comber where he had fallen — indeed, 
to have tried to move him now would have far exceeded 



302 THE ALIBI 

Arthur's shattered forces — he gathered together a quantity 
of the net-cord, took a case-knife from the table, and set 
himself to work making the man his captive. 

Arthur's right hand and arm dangled helpless. The blow, 
beside having broken the radius, seemed to have paralyzed 
the whole arm — a condition by no means improved by the 
subsequent cruel lashing on the cot. Arthur oould l»rely 
move it at all. With his left hand he raised it and thrust 
it into his shirt, thus making a temporary sling. Later he 
would attend to the injury, but for the present he must work 
and work fast to trice up the fallen thug. 

With some difficulty Arthur drew both the man's hands 
behind his back, and then began binding them. Round and 
round he passed the cord, hauling it tight with all his 
strength, which now in some measure had begun to return. 
Unmindbg his wounded head and throbbing arm, he labored. 

The process was slow. He had to crouch there, using 
his right elbow to hold the man's hands down, while with 
the left he pulled the cord tight. But he persisted, and after 
a while got his erstwhile captor firmly trussed. 

This done, he bound the thug's feet together, knotting tfaem 
hard. He next poured water on the lashings to set the 
knots and swell the cords. Then he stood up, surveyed his 
work and knew it was good. 

Q)nsiderably recovered, Arthur set immediately at work 
to put himself in shape for flight. He bathed his wounded 
head, examined the gash as best he could in a jagged bit of 
mirror tacked to the wall of the shack, and decided that 
his injury, though ugly, was inconsequential. Choosing the 
best of the beach-comber's few surplus garments, he pain- 
fully disguised himself therein, assuming the final appear- 
ance of a rough-and-timible waterman. The oilskins and 
sou'wester could not have been improved upon as a make-up. 
A pair of big sea-boots completed it. 

He broke in pieces a wooden box that had held canned 



FLIGHT 303 

goods, cut some splints and with great difficulty applied these 
to his forearm, which he wrapped with net-cords. He 
fashioned a sling out of a bit of tattered sail-cloth and 
through this slipped his arm. 

He next emptied Slayton's clothes, which he had dis- 
carded, of their contents. He found a few valueless papers 
and memoranda, which he burned ; some loose coins, a silver 
match-box and some minor miscellanea. The idea came to 
him that perhaps the wig might help disguise him ; but hav- 
ing tried it he found he could not make it fit, and therefore 
had to abandon that plan. 

He stuffed the wig into an inner pocket of the ruffian's 
clothing he had put on, saved the matches and coins, and did 
up all the dead cashier's clothing, with the match-box, in a 
compact bundle weighted with a heavy piece of junk-iron 
and securely lashed with net-cord. 

He now was ready for the urgent business of flight. 

The hour, marked by the beach-comber's alarm-clock, was 
just a little past eight. Outside, wind and weather still were 
rising, and the rain came hurling against the shack in long, 
driven curtains that half-obscured the sea. Rather formid- 
able waves had begun to build in the Lower Bay. Standing 
at the leaky window a moment, peering out, Arthur watched 
the ravenous curl and slaver of their tongues, anxiously yet 
without real fear. Better to end life there and now, he 
was thinking — infinitely better — than a few weeks later 
in the chair of infamy and torment at Sing Sing. 

He turned back into the room, poured some more hot 
coffee and drank two cups. Bread and cold meat stood on 
the foul shelf that served the beach-comber as a pantry ; but 
Arthur, fevered and in pain, could force himself to eat noth- 
ing. He viewed the man's drinking-water with suspicion, 
and though athirst confined himself to liquid that had been 
boiled. 

If he were to get away at all, he knew he must bestir him- 



JO* THE ALIBI 

sdf. His original plan still held. He was still determined 
to try for the Long Island shore, to enter Manhattan through 
Brookl}!!. Not all the trains and cars could be watched. 
The police could not take cognizance of everything^. Once 
on Long Island he felt positive he could reach the city un- 
detected ; the more so as the fellow had told him the police 
were working on a clue that reported him already in the city. 

First of all Arthur needed money. He proceeded to 
" frisk " the ruffian with great thoroughness, and very speed- 
ily recovered the wallet. This time he counted the contents. 
They assayed to the color of one htmdred and eighty-six 
dollars. The thug's own pocketbook yielded eleven. 

Arthur smiled, well pleased. On this, one could travel 
far. Even though justice were denied him he might still 
escape from persecution, win life, a chance to stand erect 
once more and be a man somehow, somewhere, sometime! 

The launch, now — where might it be? 

" Out back there in a cove," the fellow had said. 

He had also remarked that it needed gas. 

But where was the supply? And could Arthur, crippled 
as he was, start the engine and navigate that pltmging tur- 
moil of wild waters in a twenty-two-footer? Grave ques- 
tions all. Grave in the extreme. 

But the fugitive did not hesitate. His mind made up, 
he went calmly to work in carrying out his plan. For the 
immediate present in that obscure hiding-place he felt safe. 
The future — well, the future must look out for itself. 

First of all Arthur cut the wires of the telephone. The 
shack was now wholly isolated. He took the instrument, 
carried it to the door and gave it a heave out into the rain- 
swept desolation of pools and dead grasses behind the build- 
ing. 

A barrel on horses under an old tarpaulin suggested gaso- 
line. The suggestion proved correct. Now all Arthur 
needed was to find the boat itself. 



FLIGHT 305 

This task proved not difficult. A few minutes of mean- 
dering through vague paths among the marshy areas brought 
him to a black mud-banked tidal slough along which a dozen 
or fifteen rickety wharves had been rudely built. At one 
of these rode the launch, innocent of paint or brass, but 
stoutly engined. Arthur climbed down into it, bailed it out, 
examined the motor with care, found he understood it, and 
after five minutes' experimenting under the lashing Novem- 
ber downpour started it satisfactorily. 

Having proved that the engine would serve him, he stopped 
it and returned to the shack. The injured ruffian on the 
floor was now beginning to show signs of life. He was 
groaning rather loudly, and from time to time his body 
twitched in spasmodic contractions. Arthur paid no heed to 
him, but sat down at the table and with Slayton's pencil wrote 
on the fly-leaf of a greasy old novel : 

Keep quiet and don't strain yourself trjring to get free. You 
can't You won't starve in twenty- four hours. I'll sec that you 
are released. Thanks for the use of the boat. That about bal- 
ances the wallop you gave me. Good-by. 

This message, scrawled painfully with his left hand, Ar- 
thur laid on the floor close beside the fellow, so that he must 
in all probability see it when he should revive. Arthur then 
took a final look around to be sure he had left no incriminat- 
ing traces of his presence there, carried the bundle of clothes 
down to the boat and tossed it in ; returned and got a water- 
pail, and in two trips filled the gas-tank of the motor-boat. 

This done, he cast off, started the engine again, and with 
no further ado navigated under the pouring rain-drive and 
wild-blustering November wind down the slough toward the 
tumbling wildness of the Bay. 

Five minutes later the motor-boat, guided only by his left 
hand, was fighting through a savage surf, smothered in spray, 
shipping a bucket of cold brme at every wallow. That viras 



3o6 



THE ALIBI 



a wild, ugly sea to buck ; but Arthur held her nose to it, and 
through she went. Then, slanting away northeastward, she 
swooped from crest to trough and back again, a wallowing, 
diminishing speck in the mad dance of .the storm. 

Presently the scudding mist and rain dimmed even this, 
then swallowed it completely. 

Trackless, the fugitive still held a course toward — what ? 



CHAPTER XXXn 

IN HIDING 

SHORTLY before noon a disabled motor-boat, its en- 
gine skipping badly and navigated by a solitary water- 
man in tattered oilskins, limped painfully into a slip 
on the North River and came alongside a flight of landing- 
stairs. 

Cramped and numb, the waterman clambered out, made 
fast and looked about him with keen eyes under the dripping 
brim of his sou'wester. Buffeted by wind and rain, he stood 
there, peering with sharp intelligence. Two or three mem- 
bers of a tug's crew, loafing at the stokehole door of their 
craft in the slip, noted that his right arm hung in a sling. 

" Some nerve, damned if he ain't I " growled one, " to take 
'er out that way, worst blow we had in two year I " 

" Nerve is right," answered another. " Only. / call it 
bughouse 1 " 

They passed a few remarks, idly interested as the boat- 
man climbed the stairs and vanished down the pier. 

" He ain't left his boat in no very choice spot," the first 
speaker commented. *' This ain't no public landin' nohow. 
He's li'ble to get in a mix if old man Hawley sees that there 
la'nch where she is now." 

The other answered nothing. A third man behind them 
asked for a chew, and the subject shifted to things whereof 
landlubbers wot nothing. 

The worst blow in two years had indeed landed Arthur at 
a place he had not chosen, yet which after all might serve 
his purpose better than any other. Half way across the Bay, 

307 



3o8 THE ALIBI 

engine trouble had weakened his power. Wind and wave 
had taken him with savage violence. He had been forced 
to run before them, straight up through the Narrows in the 
Upper Bay ; and only when within a mile of the Battery had 
he been able to stop bailing. Exhausted, he had steered his 
lame boat through a dangerous puzzle of harbor-craft into 
the North River ; and so knowing not whither he went, suf- 
fering agonies from his shattered arm, half-frozen, drenched 
to the skin through his torn oilers — all in all a sick and 
broken man — he had come once more to land on the fringe 
of the vast, hostile yet sheltering hive of men, New York. 

Under the very eyes of police and " bulls " watching cars 
and ferries, the disheveled waterman passed. In safety he 
traversed the broad, cobbled space of West Street, between 
the pier-houses and the row of buildings opposite. The 
swinging lattice of a low groggery swallowed him. Five 
minutes later, in the back room of that dive, he was devour- 
ing a horrible beef stew mixed with "punk," and — very 
much against his taste but merely to divert suspicion — 
drinking a tall beer wholly innocent of hops or malt. 

After the wild and storm-racked experience of the past 
three hours and more, this haven seemed beatific. Filthy, 
smoky, crowded with the roughest offscourings of the water- 
front — an " ink-pot" where a murder could be bought for 
two dollars, for one, nay, even for a drink of rye — it still 
offered peace and rest and opportunity to pull together for 
the next step of this terrible pilgrimage through the wilder- 
ness of a society organized to lay hands on him and slay 
him. 

Here, for a time at least, he was safe. Here he could 
eat and drink and sleep — for up-stairs a vile doss-house 
offered beds at fifteen cents. Here he felt the eye of ob- 
servation would hardly reach him. His protean changes of 
disguise, largely forced on him by the extraordinary circum- 
stances through which he had passed, seemed to him almost 



IN HIDING 309 

a complete safeguard for the present. Having started in 
convict garb, he had then become a hobo. He had shifted 
to a gentleman, and lastly to a waterman in oilers. No less 
than Sherlock Holmes, he reflected over his meal, would have 
been required to spot him coming — of all ways and in all 
places — via a motor-boat to that landing on the North 
River. 

Had he planned all and been backed by unlimited re- 
sources, he could have done no better ; and yet all, or mostly 
all, had been the result of nothing but chance. 

Fate had played his hand for him, not he himself. Bar- 
ring the broken arm and the lost vengeance on Slayton, for 
which loss he had already grown profoundly grateful, mis- 
chance had passed him by. It was with a deep and vast 
thankfulness that he sat there among those vile, shouting, 
ribald, cursing outcasts in that hideous ** kip," devoured his 
nauseous food with his left hand and thanked high heaven 
that freedom still was his. 

Too deeply schooled in the bitter wisdom of the under- 
world was Arthur now to make any false steps. He care- 
fully refrained from laying his sou'wester aside, even though 
it seemed to band his head with a ring of heat and pain. 
The big, drooping-brimmed hat admirably protected from 
observation that clipped, wounded, aching poll of his. 

Too wise was he to flash even a V in that den of thieves 
and cutthroats. Had one of many there suspected his iden- 
tity, piped that cranium or known even a fraction of the 
wad he carried, either he would have been snitched on in 
ten minutes for the reward, or " big Peter " would have been 
slipped to him in a knockout dose, or outright butchery 
would forever have ended his bitter quest for liberty. 

No ; the fugitive took no risks. He kept his tongue in his 
cheek, his sou'wester on his head and his wad in his pocket. 
He made no talk with any. He paid his score with a few 
loose coins from among those he had f otmd in Slayton's coat 



310 THE ALIBI 

— coat, overcoat and all now lay at the bottom of the Bay, 
sunk deep by that piece of junk-iron he had lashed into the 
bundle — and thereafter spent some hours in reading news- 
papers crammed with sensational misinformation about Slay- 
ton's " murder " and about Mansfield, the hideous criminaL 
During this perusal he consumed just enough beer and to- 
bacco to entitle him to shelter from the storm. 

Sitting there in hiding in the darkest comer, he pondered 
many things — the curious ways of justice; the fate that had 
taken him, clean, straight and whole, tmsoiled by criminality, 
and had made a hunted man of him, a man accused of two 
murders by the whole world, a man seared by the peniten- 
tiary, a man broken in body and embittered in soul, a man 
yet to be dragged down and harried to his death. 

He pondered on Enid too, now millions of miles away 
from him and forever lost; and felt tears start in his eyes 
and a lump choke him as he recalled her ways and words, 
her look, her gestures and endearments of the other, better 
days. 

Had she still faith in him ? he wondered. No, no I Im- 
possible I Up to the end of his time in Sing Sing she had 
believed in him; this much he knew. She had continued 
writing and had never ceased protesting her faith and try- 
ing to instil hqpe into him that some time the vast wrong 
should all be made right. She had treasured the one letter 
a month which constituted his total writing allowance in the 
Pen. Through all she had ** stood by." But now — 

Now, Arthur sensed right well, the end of everything had 
come. His escape, the shooting of Slayton, all the circum- 
stances now had surely condemned him, even in her pure 
and trusting eyes. And as he realized the loss and felt 
the last strand breaking which had bound him to resolves 
for upright conduct, he knew he was standing on the nar- 
row brink of Hell. 

One impulse, one deciding factor now might plunge him 



IN HIDING 3" 

irretrievably into the Pit. Society had condemned him, 
blameless. It had thrust him down into the underworld and 
held him there. It now sought his life with blind and deaf 
stupidity as savage as it was unreasoning. 

Well, there was the challenge. If society insisted on his 
playing that game, why not play it after all and play it hard? 

No upward way beckoned, but only downward ways. 
Very well, so be it. The world had flung him out and spat 
upon him as an enemy. It had refused to hear him, to be- 
lieve him, to accept him as anything but a foe. 

Why not snatch up the gauntlet and — since the role had 
been forced upon him — play it pitilessly and well ? 

Arthur suddenly aroused himself from these black mus- 
ings with a start. He had just recalled the fact that the 
motor boat, still moored in that rain-swept slip, constituted 
a grave peril for him, a clue that might yet lead him to the 
chair. 

How could he have forgotten it so long? Such folly 
seemed incredible, yet the fact remained; he had not dis- 
posed of the boat, and it must be made way with at once. 

But how? He dared not leave the joint. Suffer as he 
might with his cut head and his broken arm still swelling in 
its soaked bandages, he was determined to remain hidden 
there till night at least; perhaps for some days. Yet the 
boat must be got rid of. This new problem quite dispelled 
his melancholy musings on the injustice of society. He for- 
got to ponder future vengeance in his sudden anxiety to fend 
off present pursuit. 

He glanced about him wearily, seeking some face that 
promised compliance with his will. The hour was now past 
five. Outside, a rainy night had settled down, dun, chill 
and drear. The brutal glare of incandescents lit the bar 
garishly; but in the back room where Arthur sat only two 
or three were burning. By their light he observed the pres- 
ent personnel. 



312 THE ALIBI 

Sordid and low those unfortunates were — 'longshore- 
men, sailors and roustabouts of the worst types ; a Portu- 
guese or two; a Bermuda negro; a furtive-eyed crimp; a 
few miscellaneous bits of human riffraff cast up like debris 
along the lip of the sea. 

One of the longshoremen appealed to Arthur's eye, now 
by reason of his prison-life well versed in gauging criminal 
character, as the fellow for his purpose. Arthur judiciously 
approached him, entered into pourparlers and in fifteen min- 
utes had the man coming. The prospect of a twenty-two- 
foot boat, given away absolutely for nothing, would have 
lured a more virtuous soul than he. 

Arthur furnished full data as to the place and appearance 
of the launch, frankly stated it was stolen and exacted a 
promise from the 'longshoreman that he would never snitch 
and that before nightfall the boat would be safely hidden 
in some obscure, marshy lagoon up the Passaic River. 
There paint and a change of some details would effectually 
disguise it. Arthur and the man had another drink together, 
and the man departed, glad in his good fortime, leaving 
Arthur's mind far easier than before. 

Next the fugitive's mind reverted to the beach-comber, in 
all probability still lying bound and helpless in the shack on 
the dunes. In justice Arthur might have left him there to 
starve and rot. But his promise had been given, and it 
must be kept. Not yet had all feelings of humanity been 
stifled in his heart. All the monstrous houndings of society 
had not yet been able to destroy his simple kindness and 
brave honesty. 

He now proceeded, therefore, to free the captive by the 
simple means of notifying the police. He got writing mate- 
rials and a stamp from the waiter — who though gorilla- 
like yet appreciated the argument of a ten-cent tip — and, 
printing with his left hand, bent over the beer- wet table, 
produced this masterpiece : 



IN HIDING 



313 



Police hedquaters, Dear sir, this to notify you a man was held up 
an robbed in a shack on the beach i H miles east of station at oak- 
wood hites, staten iland, this morning, about the middle shack in 
the settelment north of iron pier, the strong arm man made his get- 
away, the other one is tide hand an foot there an may die if you 
dont get him. this is no jolly but strait dope. Yours truly, 

Wise Guy. 

This done, he sealed and addressed it : 



POLICE HEDQUATERS, 

Mulbery St, city. 



and, having observed a mail-box on the comer across the 
street, took a chance and posted it himself. 

His duty now all done and more than done, he bethought 
him of a little rest. The morrow must find him ready for 
still other and greater exertions. Despite his broken arm, 
constantly growing more painful, he must push on, seeking 
fresh disguises. Once the police should rescue the beach- 
comber, his oilskins and sou'wester would be known and 
sought for. By morning, at latest, he must be afar in some 
other hole or cranny of the hive, in other clothes and under 
different circumstances. 

As Arthur paid his fifteen cents for the luxury of a night's 
doss he realized his proposterous folly in having written 
that letter ; and yet he did not regret having written it. Had 
he left the beach-comber there to die, he himself might have 
been safe for some days Perhaps nobody would have dis- 
covered the man in a good while. Possibly not until old 
Jarboe should have investigated would anybody have ven- 
tured out across those marshes, flailed by the November 
storm. Meantime Arthur could have rested and recuper- 



314 



THE ALIBI 



ated at his ease. The price he now would have to pay for 
having saved that vicious, worthless life might be his own. 

Had he only shot the man and dumped him into a quick- 
sand, as impulse had dictated, how vastly safer now he must 
have been I Yet in his heart he rejoiced that he had not 
done so. He cherished the image and the vision of Enid 
Chamberlain, lost to him now yet still living in his soul — 
the vision that had stayed his hand, the vision that still 
seemed to guide him through the dark and formless ways of 
persecution and of flight. 

Not yet had he done murder. With her to uplift and 
strengthen him he could not do it now. So long as Enid's 
blessed memory should abide with him, hunted though he 
was and hounded through the rat-pits and sewers of the 
underworld, he could not kill. 

His heart rose surging up to her in love and gratitude 
supreme. 

" De profundis!** he murmured fervently; and for the 
first time in long weeks of anguish he felt the btutiing solace 
of tear-drops starting in his eyes. 




CHAPTER XXXIII 

A GUMPSE OF PARADISE 

,ULL the rope there, Bill! " 

Bill, clerk of the doss-house up-stairs over 
the saloon, being thus adjured by a human wreck 
slouched far down in a broken-seated chair beside the pot- 
bellied stove, twitched the cord that drew back the lock of 
the wire-grated door. Doss-house doors must always be 
kept locked from the outside. Otherwise the fifteen-cent- 
less would inevitably prowl in and sleep gratis. 

Bill surveyed Arthur, who returned the observation. The 
clerk seemed constitutionally in need of a shave and con- 
genitally hard of heart. No appeals unbacked by cash could 
conceivably procure free sleep from him. He moved a shirt- 
sleeved arm, notably unclean, and jerked his thumb toward 
the inner regions. 

Arthur was free to enter the pearly gates of slumber. 
The ticket in his hand — the ticket that the wreck in the 
chair had noted, even as he had observed Arthur's obvious 
lack of familiarity with the customs of dosses — entitled him 
to go through. He accordingly passed from the outer 
region of bare benches and tables with ragged old news- 
papers on them, the region adorned with recruiting posters 
and many indubitable proofs of the tobacco habit, to the 
inner region of tiered-up rows of cots, whitewashed walls, 
and numerous signs prohibiting everything in general. 

Appallingly foul the air was, worse even than the fetid 
air of Sing Sing. The filthy bunks in superimposed tiers 
repelled the newcomer. Hardly more disgusting than these 

' ' 315 



3i6 THE ALIBI 

had been his bunk in his cell on " the flats," Four or five 
down-and-outers had already crawled into their lairs. 
These were probably men who the night before had "car- 
ried the banner," and who now by hook or crook, having 
got hold of the coveted " pad-money " — more precious far 
than coin for eats — had with the drawing-on of night gone 
to their slumbers at the first possible moment after the 
opening of the doss. Heaven knew — perhaps — when 
some of them might sleep under a roof again I 

Only with the greatest repugnance could Arthur force 
himself to choose a bunk in this iniquitous den; but his 
throbbing head and swollen arm, joined to a vast weariness 
of flesh and spirit, forced him to lie down among these out- 
casts. He chose a flop in the very farthest corner where 
the light was dim. Shucking only his boots and outer cloth- 
ing, which he warily rolled all up together and used as a 
pillow, thus safeguarding himself against disadvantageous 
exchanges of apparel, he sought repose. Over his clipped 
head the sou'wester still extended its protection. 

For a few minutes physical pain and mental anguish kept 
the fugitive awake, but gradually exhaustion claimed its 
due; his ideas and sensations grew vague and uncertain, 
and he slept. 

He awoke suddenly, not understanding where he was, 
sat up on the bunk, and blinked around him. The place 
was full of unfortunates, most of them snoring or g^roan- 
ing dolefully. So thick and heavy had the air become in 
that tight-closed pit of social misery that the one or two in- 
candescents burning there seemed dimmed thereby. The 
clock on the farther wall marked nine-twelve. Arthur had 
slept four hours like one dead. 

With returning plenitude of consciousne&s he found that 
an intense pain in his arm had wakened him. Despite the 
splints and wrappings, it had continued to swell. The bone 
had been broken some twenty hours before. Exposure, 



A GLIMPSE OF PARADISE 317 

hardship, rain, lack of proper care had all wrought havoc 
with it Arthur realized as he sat there on the edge of the 
bunk, feeling of the arm and peering at it by the vague light, 
that serious developments were forward. 

" I'm liable to lose this," he muttered, " if I don't do 
something for it, and do it quick ! " 

Inwardly he cursed the luck which, playing him as a cat 
plays a mouse, had let him escape only with this injury, 
which might yet drag him down to capture and to death. 
Were any investigation of his hurt made, it must inevitably 
lead to exposure. He dared not ask for help, yet help he 
must have. The impasse loomed up appallingly before 
him. 

All at once out from the back of his subconsciousness the 
image of Dr. Harland Nelson rose and stood before him — 
Nelson, the cold, calm, scientific man whose testimony had 
finally convicted him ; Nelson, the impersonal ; Nelson, who 
had admitted on the stand that his science had no explana- 
tion of those half-dozen gray hairs found in the clutching 
dead fingers of old man Mackenzie. 

Nelson ! 

The idea of Nelson possessed him suddenly and with 
strange power. Once more he weighed the half- formulated 
plan he had already entertained — the plan of taking the 
gray wig to the doctor, of telling his story, of driving home 
its truth upon that chill and calculating brain, of enlisting 
the scientist in his cause. 

A forlorn hope? Maybe. Nelson, largely responsible 
for having sent Arthur away for life — would he, could 
he now afford to reverse his opinions and champion a man 
he had helped damn? Could scientific honesty and ethical 
uprightness so i^r overbalance the natural human pride of 
opinion ? 

Arthur's mind and body were in no condition for analysis. 
All that he realized as he sat there, suffering torment on 



3i8 THE ALIBI 

that dirty cot in the doss-house, was that the idea of Nelson, 
of the wig, of justification, had suddenly obsessed him once 
more ; and that, moreover, he stood in direst need of medical 
attention. 

Enough I 

Arthur's decision, swiftly made, settled into firm mold 
with equal swiftness. Standing up, he drew his clothing on 
again and fixed the sou'wester down close over his telltale 
stubble of prison-cut hair. 

Nobody noticed him in that sad place; none questioned 
and none cared. He sat down again, hauled on the beach- 
comber's huge sea-boots, and clumped to the door. At the 
right. Bill sat yawning over a pink sporting paper and in- 
haling a cigarette. A little row of butts stood on his greasy 
desk, upright like tenpins. He gazed at Arthur with a 
watery eye, scratched his bristling chin, and then resumed 
his study of the shapeliness and valor abundantly portrayed 
in the pink pages. 

"Give us a slant at your telephone-book there. Jack!'* 
demanded Arthur, simulating the speech of the gutter. 

The clerk in silence shoved it over to him. He turned 
the pages eagerly, emotions at his heart as violent as though 
the gleam of a new hope over the inky wastes of despair 
had been a ray that dazzled him with its strange light. 

Ncff — Neiss — Nclmes — Nelson. Albert E. Edward F. Nel- 
son, Harland, physician, 127A Madison Avenue. 

Arthur stared at the address, burning it into his memory 

" Thanks ! " And he shoved the book back again. The 
bristly clerk merely yawned. 

"I'm goin' out a while. Got a return-check there?" 
asked the fugitive, keen on maintaining an illusion of be- 
longing to the underworld. 

" Nothin' doin'," answered he of the watery eye, stick- 
ing another butt at the end of the row. ** No checks. If 



A GLIMPSE OF PARADISE 3^9 

we had 'em, maybe three or four boes would relay sleeps in 
one night You either stay in or stay out — see ? " 

Arthur raised a plaint, but to no avail. He finally had to 
leave without the desired check. Two minutes later, with 
the beach-comber's clothes upon him and Slayton*s one 
hundred and eighty-six dollars in his pocket, he was on the 
street. 

The storm had cleared off cold and freezing, with a 
promise of moonlight again through the scudding clouds. 
Ice coated the sidewalks and skimmed the little pools be- 
tween paving-stones or in gutters. Pedestrians hurried 
past, their breath blowing in vapor-swirls. 

Arthur, not yet wholly dry and suffering acute pain, shiv- 
ered as the nipping air searched through the ragged gar- 
ments of the beach-comber. He turned into Christopher 
Street and walked rapidly toward the Ninth Avenue " L," 
keeping a sharp eye peeled for trouble. 

Unmolested he reached the "L," got off at Twenty- 
Eighth Street, and caught a cross-town car to Madison Ave- 
nue. Some few persons r^arded him with curiosity, for 
the figure of a waterman in oilskins and with a broken arm 
hanging in a sling of sailcloth was no every-day sight. Yet 
nobody spoke to him, nor was he disturbed in any way. 

He passed near two policemen, but neither one stopped 
him. Few detectives would have been able to " make " him 
in that outfit. Police, plain-clothes men and detectives all 
alike were on the lookout for Arthur dressed in Slayton's 
clothes, the loss of which had been noted. That suit now 
was lying safely at the bottom of the Bay. The oilskins, 
sou'wester and huge seaboots were life-savers for the fugi- 
tive. 

Some few minutes later Arthur approached the physician's 
door. In front of it a magnificent limousine was standing 
with a blase chauffeur yawning on the seat. Arthur 
mounted the marble steps and rang the electric bell of a 



320 



THE ALIBI 



door which bore a shining plate of brass^ engraved with the 
name: 



HARLAND NELSON, M. D. 
Physician and Surgeon 



A maid in cap and apron presently opened the door, sur- 
veyed this rough-and-tumble figure with disapproval, and 
shook her head. Her voice was colder than the night wind, 
which was chattering Arthur's teeth, as she announced : 

" The doctor's hours are from seven to nine. You can't 
see him to-night." 

" A doctor's hours are whenever he's needed," shivered 
the fugitive. *' I must see him ! " 

The maid stared at the sound of this kind of voice and 
expression in the mouth of a 'longshoreman, but stood firm. 

"You can't 1" 

" I can, and will ! " 

He pushed past her into the hall. 

" Go and tell him it's urgent ! " 

*' He's got company to-night, and — '* 

" He'd leave anything if he knew who was here. Go get 
him!" 

Fairly outplayed and dominated, the maid shut the outer 
door, peered a moment with indecision at this extraordinary 
visitor, then waved a hand at the curtained doorway on her 
right. 

" Step into the office, please," bade she. 

Arthur nodded in silence and clumped in over the polished 
hardwood floor, his big sea-boots making a formidable clat- 
ter of hobnails that augured no good for the parquetry. 
The maid stared at him in indignation, then turned ai^ 



A GLIMPSE OF PARADISE 321 

flounced up-stairs. This peculiar, tall, big-shouldered 
waterman, who kept his sou'wester on in the house, whose 
oilskins showed many a rip, and whose rough boots scarred 
the waxed floor, yet whose broad brows commanded and 
whose blue eyes and low-pitched voice somehow stirred her 
heart, surely was the most disconcerting patient ever she 
had ushered into that oflice in all the three years of her 
service. 

Thus, piqued, angered, yet underneath it all well pleased 
to serve him, she ran lightly up the broad stairway. The 
doctor had told her positively he would see no more patients 
that night, and had settled down to a game of chess with his 
friend, while his wife and the visitor's daughter had a bit of 
Brahms and Dvorak in the music-room. Yet the 'longshore- 
man had commanded, and she had perforce obeyed. Biting 
her lip, she did his bidding. 

Arthur, listening at the office-door with contracted brow 
and a poignant nervousness gaining on him moment by mo- 
ment, heard the murmur of voices up-stairs. He caught the 
tones of Nelson's dry, cold speech, well-remembered from 
the trial when the doctor had so dispassionately, so imper- 
sonally blighted his prospects and sealed his fate. And at 
that sound again his uninjured hand clenched hard, his face 
grew harsh, and in his blue eyes a glint of steel seemed to 
flash and quiver. 

The maid's pitty-pat of footsteps, descending, made him 
draw back into the clear-lighted, immaculate and splendidly 
equipped office — the office of one of New York's most 
eminent and successful practitioners. A bit embarrassed, 
the girl entered, announced : 

" He'll see you in a few minutes," and — having cast an 
appraising glance at the patient — disappeared. 

Left to his own devices, Arthur took stock of the place, 
listened to some vagrant chords of music that floated down 
from the upper regions, picked up a copy of the Lancet and 



322 THE ALIBI 

tried to read, but by ill-luck opened at an article on ** The 
Role of the Specialist in Criminal Jurisprudence/* and 
hastily threw it down again. He nervously felt in his pocket 
for the hundredth time to assure himself he still had that 
all-precious wig ; then stood up and paced the floor, trying to 
keep a grip on badly frayed nerves that now were struggling 
to get away from him. 

He no longer seemed to feel much pain in his scalp-wound 
or in his broken arm. The intensity of his emotions, now 
that he stood at last on the very threshold of defeat or vic- 
tory, obliterated physical anguish. 

This thing he was about to do was freighted with most 
tremendous consequences. It meant life or death to him — 
no less. He, an escaped convict now accused of still an- 
other murder, was about to present himself to a medical 
assistant closely connected with all the powers of the law 
— the very man who had been instnunental in convicting 
him. 

• Just on the story he was to tell now hung everything. 
If that story failed to carry, death stared him in the face. 

Could it, backed by nothing save that wig as corroborative 
evidence — a wig that might have been bought in any one 
of a hundred shops — batter down the mountains of proof 
against him ? Could it clear his name and restore to him, so 
far as ever now could be restored, his good name and his 
chance to live ? 

Impossible, it seemed. Something whispered to the fugi- 
tive: 

** Away, away, before it is too late 1 Out of this house, 
and save yourself ! You may yet escape by flight. Remam- 
ing, you are lost I " ' 

Arthur stopped in his pacing, faced the door and took one 
step toward it. His face had gone paler than ever. As 
in a chill he shivered. Life or death — which was it to be? 



A GLIMPSE OF PARADISE 3^3 

On this cast of the coin of fate he might win all or lose 
aU. 

Flight meant that he never could be justified. It meant 
an admission of blood-guiltiness. Remaining, telling his 
story and trusting to the facts presupposed their truth. It 
might win for him. Yet the chance was despe];ate. Racked 
by terrible emotions, Arthur stood undecided, with a heart 
that beat so thick and fast its dnunming choked the breath 
in his throat. 

Then suddenly he decided: 

Flight 1 

He could not face the issue. His story was too frail, the 
only bit of evidence in his favor too tenuous to warrant gam- 
bling his life upon it. In a court-ro<xn again, any tenth-rate 
attorney could riddle it and fling it to derision. And on this 
had he pinned his faith? 

A sudden revulsion of feeling swept over him. A branded 
fugitive he had been, was and still must be. Safety for him 
could mean nothing but the safety of the hidden and the 
fleeing. To stand, to turn, to fight meant annihilation. 

Fully decided now, he tiptoed toward the office-door as 
quietly as his big boots would let him. Now he was almost 
there. A moment more and he would be in the hall, through 
it, out of {he door and away. 

But he did not enter the hall. 

Instead, with a look of wonder, astonishment and in- 
credulity on his wan face, he grasped the jamb of the door 
with his left hand and stood there listening at the opening in 
the portiere. 

People were conjing down the stairs. He heard them dis- 
tinctly. There must be three or four. Their footfalls 
sounded plainly on the hardwood steps. And their voices, 
too, were clearly audible. 

One voice in particular it was that had thus transfixed 



< 



3^4 



THE ALIBI 



him ; that had paralyzed his muscles and inhibited his flight. 
A voice he would have known anywhere in this world, at any 
time, in any anguish. 

It was the voice of a woman. 

It was the voice of Enid Chamberlain. 



CHAPTER XXXIV 

TWO MEN AND A PROBLEM 

STARING With wide blue eyes that peered through the 
little space between the curtains, listening so intently 
that he forgot to breathe, this wreck of a man — 
maimed, scarred, clipped and in vile rags — stood there peer- 
ing out to see the beautiful and gracious woman who had 
once promised herself to him. 

To see her — aye ! And hear her, too, for just a moment, 
a brief, heart-wringing moment, before the final scene of the 
tragedy should be acted and the mocking hand of fate should 
signal: 

''All lights out!" 

Arthur knew at once that Enid and her father had been 
the guests whereof the maid had spoken. Their evening at 
an end, their call probably terminated by the announcement 
of an urgent case in the office, now they were on their home- 
ward way. 

Arthur grasped the significance of that splendid limousine 
at the door. It was much like the one wherein he in better 
days had ridden with the girl. A swift thought of himself 
riding there now with her in his present wounded, hunted, 
desperate plight, filled his cup of bitterness to the brim and 
spilled it over. Oceans, worlds and universes lay between 
them now — between that woman and himself, between all 
that had been and all that was or could be. 

Chamberlain was speaking, his voice strangely tremulous 
and aged, already "turning again toward childish treble." 
In that voice the fugitive clearly understood how the tragic 

325 



326 THE ALIBI 

hand of fate had broken the old man. And now, glimpsing 
his bent figure stiiHy coming down the stairs, that kindly face 
still framed in the magnificent white mass of hair, Arthur 
felt a pang at realizing how Chamberlain must have suf- 
fered — all for the dead and execrated Slayton's evil deed. 

" A bit too strong for me to-night, you were, doctor," the 
old man was saying regretfully. " Just a little bit too strong. 
That was a smashing attack at the end with both rooks, the 
bishop and the queen. Double check. Impossible situa- 
tion. Either your play is improving or mine's going bade 
A year ago — no, sir ! You couldn't have got me into a 
comer like that 1 " 

The doctor laughed dryly. 

" Your variant of the giuoco piano was hardly success- 
ful," he answered. " It cramped your play. You didn*t 
develop your pieces early enough in the game. Personally I 
prefer the Ruy Lopez. A great gambit, that I Better luck 
next time. Chamberlain. You'll have your revenge next 
week." 

The banker nodded, smiling with his thin lips only — his 
sad eyes never smiled now — and as he reached the bottom 
of the stairway with the doctor, paused for his coat and silk 
hat. He put these on with Nelson's help, then stood look- 
ing up the stairs at his approaching daughter ; while behind 
the curtain Arthur shook and trembled with a wild, yearning 
passion of eagerness. 

" Come, Enid," the old father said gently and affection- 
ately, as he always spoke to the girl, loved better far than his 
own life. " We must be going. It's later than I thought, 
and the doctor has a patient waiting. You and Mrs. N. can 
finish up that discussion to-morrow or the next day. Come 
along." 

" All right, father," she answered from the landing. " I 
just want to tell her I don't believe it even now. She and 
you — yes, and the doctor, too ; he's worse than either of 



TWO MEN AND A PROBLEM 327 

you — are bound and determined I shall. But I don't even 
yet, and never — " 

"Come, come, Enidl" her father interposed. "You 
haven't begun that again, have you? Didn't you promise 
you'd drop it for a while ? Say good night now, and come 
along/' 

Arthur, risking discovery by pushing the curtain a little 
outward, was now just able to see the beloved figure on the 
landing — a sight that set his pulses leaping and that dimmed 
his sight with emotions unspeakable. Instinctively he raised 
his hand, swept oflf the battered old sou'wester and dropped 
it to the floor, leaving his gashed and close-cropped head 
quite bare. In her presence he could not stand and watch 
her, covered. 

Mrs. Nelson, motherly and warm of heart to an extent 
that almost balanced the cold, impersonal character of her 
husband, took both Enid's hands in hers and drew the girl 
close and kissed her. 

" Good night, dear," she said. " Thursday ? " 

" Thursday," assented Enid, pulling on a long, pearl-gray 
glove, " That is, tmless I call you and tell you I can't go." 

" Come, come, Enid ! " again the old man begged, raising 
a beckoning finger. 

The girl turned and came on down the stairs, a charming 
figure in her silver-fox coat and little fox toque trimmed 
with a single rosebud. Arthur's hungry, famishing glance 
swept her from that bud to the tips of her patent-leather, 
gray-topped boots. He trembled so violently that he had to 
lean back against the door-jamb to support himself ; and two 
big, heavy tears rolled down his wan cheeks, down over his 
unshaven, bristling chin — rolled down and dropped upon 
the fioor at his feet. 

Poignantly in that one m(mient he understood the wreck 
that Slayton and society had made of him ; that the hard, un- 
intelligent precision of the law had made of him; that 



328 THE ALIBI 

** justice " had made of him. And, added to the prescience 
that justice had not yet wrought its fill upon him, but that it 
still reserved more anguish even unto death, came now the 
full comprehension of what the law had ravished from his 
arms. 

There she stood, that girl, at the bottom of the stairway 
with her father. And the convict looked upon her through 
his tears ; beautiful and pure he beheld her. 

Her smile, he saw, had saddened. New lines he had 
never seen in her face had written their story of her grief 
and faith and struggle. Her eyes, as she looked up at the 
, doctor, giving him her hand, had changed. Arthur had 
known her as a girl. She was a woman now. The tragedy 
and pain of these two years had made her one. 

" Good night, doctor," said she. 

" Good night. And mind, now, no more brooding I " 

He spoke jestingly, but a deeper tone of seriousness lay 
beneath his words. 

" I never allow a patient of mine to brood, you know. I 
haven't pulled you through nervous prostration and Heaven 
knows what else, to have you drop back into the Pit, with 
worrying over what can't be helped." 

" I'm not worrying, doctor," she answered simply and 
quietly, her eyes on his. " Not a bit. I'm just going on and 
on as I have from the first — trusting." 

The doctor dropped her gloved hand, raised both his aroB 
a little at his sides and let them fall again in his familiar 
gesture of despair when anything passed his bounds of 
power or patience. 

" Miss Chamberlain 1 " he protested. 

** Doctor I " she resisted with adamantine firmness. 

" Come, Enid ! " her father once more interposed with as 
near an approach to irritation as his loyal and gentle old soul 
could ever simulate. 

He took her by the arm, and together they passed dowa 



TWO MEN AND A PROBLEM 329 

the hall. Enid walked on the side nearest the office-door. 
She passed not one foot from the opening in the portieres ; 
hardly a foot from the eager, burning gaze of the hunted 
man. The little breeze of her passing wafted a faintest 
breath of perfume to his nostrils — lys du Japon it was, deli- 
cate, elusive, supremely feminine. He quivered, recoiled 
into a chair, sank down and buried his face in his left hand, 
breathing hard. 

He heard a few parting words, the opening of the outer 
door, its closing, then the hum of the motor as it drew away 
from the curb. Enid was gone. 

The doctor's step sounded in the hallway. It entered the 
office, stopped, then came on again. 

"Hmmml" the doctor ejaculated. "What's the trou- 
ble?" 

Arthur raised his head and stared at the physician. Noth- 
ing much about him had changed in those two fateful years. 
He had grown a little more bald, perhaps; but the same 
toothbrush mustache still covered his lip, the same keen eyes 
still looked out through the same shell-rimmed glasses. The 
same impersonal air of calm and abstract science still dis- 
tinguished him. 

" Well ? " asked the doctor. " What can I do for you, my 
man? These are not my regular hours, you know, but the 
maid told me it was urgent. Fracture, eh? And scalp- 
wound ? Fighting, or what ? " 

Arthur faced the doctor, his heart beating thickly. Ob- 
viously Nelson did not recognize him. The doors of retreat 
had not yet closed behind him, then. He could have his 
injuries treated, pay the charge and go, unmolested. Go? 
Yes ; but with the same horrible pursuit behind him, the same 
hideous charges still hanging over his head. Go — still a 
fugitive. 

For a moment the struggle whether to stand his ground 
or flee once more racked his soul. But almost instantly Ar- 



330 THE ALIBI 

thur's decision strengthened again and vanquished his weak- 
ness. He would not go until his story had been told. Now, 
face to face with the supreme moment, he would stick to the 
task and live or die by the result. 

Arthur, pale as death and shivering all over, took three 
steps and confronted the physician, who stood there regard- 
ing him through those round glasses with as much personal 
interest as he might have had in an insect under a lens. 

"What's the matter?" demanded Nelson. "Can't you 
talk? How did you get hurt? " 

" I got hurt," answered Arthur slowly and v/ith twitching 
lips, " I got hurt trying to win justice." 

Nelson laughed dryly. 

*' One of the most prolific methods of acquiring injuries," 
he commented. "Well, who did it? And what with? 
Maybe that will have some bearing on my diagnosis." 

" None whatever," Arthur replied, while the doctor peered 
at him in some surprise, astonished to hear such words and 
tones in the mouth of this ruffianly looking water-rat 
" None at all. But I don't mind telling you I was struck <hi 
the head with an iron bar, and that the same bar probably 
broke one of the bones in my arm here. Will you repair the 
damage?" 

Nelson pursed his lips. 

" You ought to have gone to some hospital or other," said 
he. "Why take blacksmith's work to a watchmaker? 
Your case is commonplace and easy. I specialize in the 
finesse of the art — heart-surgery, ophthalmic work, delicate 
and complex operations. The stitching of your clipped sca^ 
and the setting of your radius does not appeal to me, my 
good fellow, and — " 

" You're a physician, aren't you ? " demanded Arthur. 

" So some claim. Others, the contrary." 

" Well, if you are, then you're bound to take a case that 
comes to you, atea't you? 



ff 



TWO MEN AND A PROBLEM 331 



** Morally, yes. But you must know that my prices are 
prohibitive for the ordinary run of men." 

" What will you charge to do this work for me and look 
me over and give me an opinion of my case ? " 

" Since you ask, a hundred and fifty dollars," answered the 
doctor, congrattilating himself that this figure would col- 
lapse the fellow, who would then take himself off to the 
nearest hospital — to some free clinic, possibly. 

"A hundred and fifty, eh?" asked the fugitive, reach- 
ing for Slayton's wallet. " Good I Here it is I " 

He put the wallet on the doctor's table, drew out the roll 
of bills, and clumsily, with his left hand, counted off the stun. 
This he shoved over to the doctor in silence, then replaced 
the rest of the money in the wallet and once more slid it into 
his pocket. 

Equally silent. Nelson counted the sum, shot a suspicious 
glance at his strange patient — a glance directed especially 
at his clipped scalp and pallid hue — formulated a question, 
decided not to ask it, and finally, opening a drawer in the 
table, dropped the money into it. His expression was one 
of displeasure. Up-stairs he had a couple of chapters on 
" The Minor Tactics of Chess " to read, and this interrup- 
tion was most inopportune. 

" Take your coat off," he directed. *' Here, 111 help you. 
Now, then, sit down here. We'll get down to business." 

While he laid out instruments, antiseptics and materials, 
from time to time he cast a wondering look at this peculiar 
person whose every action was so unexpected. Somewhere, 
far back in the vague, dark caverns of his subconscious- 
ness, that face seemed to waken ghostly memories. Some 
time, he thought, it must have passed upon the cinema-screen 
of his experience, among the swarms of others that his busy 
life brought him in contact with. Some time, somewhere — 
but when, where? Shaking his head, he abandoned the 
elusive quest. 



332 THE ALIBI 

*' Here," said he sharply, taking up a pair of crooked scis- 
sors. ** Now then, your arm I " 

Deftly he cut away the sling and the clumsy surgery of 
Arthur's inexperience, soon exposing the muscular arm all 
bruised, ridged and swollen. 

" Well, well ! " said he. " How long since it was hurt ? " 

" About twenty-one hours." 

" Why didn't you have it seen to before ? ^ 

" The circumstances weren't such that I could." 

"Weren't, eh?" sharply, as he washed his hands. 
" Something irregular ? " 

" Very." 

"Oh, indeed!" 

" Very much so. And beside," added Arthur, fixing his 
eyes on the doctor's face, " I wasn't where I could see you." 

" You mean you were set on having my c^e? " 

" I was determined to see you even before I got hurt." 

" The deuce you say I What are you driving at, anyhow? 
Why did you want to consult tnef " 

" Doctor," answered the fugitive slowly, " I once on a time 
had an important demonstration of your precise, scientific, 
highly efiicient methods. I have never forgotten that lesson. 
Now on account of it I've come back to you." 

'* You mean to say I've treated you before ? " asked Nel- 
son, preparing an antiseptic wash. 

*' Emphatically, yes ! " 

" Hmmm ! " growled the doctor, beginning his work on 
the broken bone with a deft skill beautiful to witness. 

He made no further comment, however; and Arthur, 
racked with pain, kept silence with stoic endurance. 
Twenty-five minutes later, his head and arm patched with 
supreme skill, Arthur sat gaunt and exhausted beside the 
table. Nelson poured him a stiff glass of whisky. 

"Here!" said he, setting it before him. "I prescribe 
about four ounces ol s^inlus -{Tuwcnti, I don't want you 



TWO MEN AND A PROBLEM 333 

keeling over on my hands, and for a fact you look mighty 
white." 

Arthur pushed away the glass. 

" No, I thank you," he declined. " I don't care for any. 
Ill be all right in a minute or two. The pallor I've got now 
can't be taken away with any four ounces of spiritus fru- 
menti." 

" I thought as much," the doctor answered, giving him a 
caustic glance. " You don't mind telling me, do you, what 
clipped your hair and bleached your face? " 

" You mean the principal factor ? " 

" The principal factor." 

" Well," replied Arthur, fixing a steady gaze on him, " the 
principal factor in my imprisonment, when we come down 
to that, was very largely — you t " 



fr 



CHAPTER XXXV 

WHEN SCIENCE LIES 

A MOMENT'S silence followed, while each man's eyes 
searched the other's face. Then the doctor, frown- 
ing, rubbed his close-shaven chin. 

" What do you mean ? " he asked in his usual cold tones, 
"la factor in your imprisonment? How so? " 

"You don't understand?" 

" No." 

Arthur raised his left hand to his clipped and wotmded 
head. 

" Doctor," said he, " it was you who brought this infamy 
and this wound on me." 

"I?" 

" You see this prison pallor? " 

"Well?" 

" You put it on my face." 

"How so?" 

" You, doctor; did all this to me, and so much more that 
I couldn't tell you all of it in a week. Unless you know what 
Sing Sing really is you can't understand the depths you 
plunged me into." 

" I plunged you into depths? " demanded Nelson, his face 
for the first time betraying a little uneasiness. 

The presence of a deranged man always is disconcerting, 
especially when that man has a fancied grievance and may 
be armed. Nelson now took this extraordinary patient for 
nothing else than an insane man with an obsession. Swiftly 
he calculated his chance of reaching the gun in his table 
drawer. His eyes sought the drawer. 



WHEN SCIENCE LIES 335 

Arthur seemed to interpret the look and the thought be- 
hind it. 

"Doctor," said he, "I stand here before you with a 
terrible grievance, and I am armed. I could shoot you down 
in your tracks. But you have nothing to fear, nothing 
whatever. 

" I didn't come for vengeance, but for justice. I got these 
injuries in the course of a quest for justice. Justice is what 
I want, and mean to have. To kill you would accomplish 
nothing, would prove nothing, and would only make me 
guilty of a real crime after having been falsely accused of 
two that I never committed. 

" Besides, there's an influence at work on me now, as there 
was then, which makes killing anybody an impossibility. So 
you haven't anything to fear. I'm here not to kill you, but 
to talk with you, ask you some questions, get some facts and 
demand a little justice. Is that clear ? " 

" Perfectly," answered Nelson, drawing a chair up beside 
the table and sitting down. ** Quite so. No intimidation 
here, you know. But all the explanation you desire. Is that 
understood ? " 

" Absolutely." 

" All right ! Put your gun on the table there ! " 

"I will," acceded Arthur. 

He drew it from his pocket and laid it on the table under 
the circle of lamplight. 

" Do you recognize it, doctor?" asked he. 

Nelson shook his head. 

" No more than I do you," he responded. '* I see so many 
revolvers and knives and such things in a year, you know. 
So many faces. So much tragedy and blood and trouble of 
all kinds." 

" You don't know that gun ? " 

" Absolutely not." 

" YouVe seen it before, however. In a court-rocjov" 



336 THE ALIBI 

" Possibly," the doctor rq)lied, nodding. " But when and 
where?" 

" You've seen me, too, at the same time and place.** 

" Name them I " 

** Doctor," the fugitive answered, " if I do and tell yoo 
who I am, Fm taking my life in my hands. Even now 
at this moment I could go free from here and get away un- 
questioned. You know nothing of me. I'm here as a pa- 
tient. I've been in jail, that's obvious and admitted. But 
for all you know I may have served my time out and be a re- 
leased man. You can't detain me. 

" After I tell you what I'm going to tell you, however, you 
may act differently. If I can't impress you with the truth 
of my story and waken your sense of justice the results will 
be fatal to me. Remember one thing: A guilty man at 
large will not expose himself to danger for the sake of get- 
ting justice." 

Nelson pondered a moment, then nodded comprehen- 
sion. 

" Very good ; very good indeed," he answered. " A dis- 
tinct point in your favor. You mean that you are under ac- 
cusation and that you risk much in coming to me for the 
justice you fancy I can give?" 

** Exactly that, doctor. I not only risk much, but I risk 
everything I have to give. I risk my life! " 

The doctor stared at Arthur hard through his round shcD 
glasses. 

" If I were quite convinced of your sanity — '* he b^an. 

Arthur laughed bitterly. 

" Don't worry about that, doctor ! " he exclaimed. ** I'm 
sick and sore and hunted, I'm wronged and outcast and a 
fugitive, but I'm not insane. You'll see before I get throi^ 
that my mind is clear and that I'm normal, all right All 
you've got to do is listen to me and I'll convince you of 
that." 



I 



WHEN SCIENCE LIES 337 

"All right; assume you're sane. What now? Who are 
you?" 

"Take a good look, doctor. Don't you realize me?" 

Nelson studied his face a long minute, then shook his 
head in negation. 

" No, I don't I " he answered. 

*' Do you mean to tell me, doctor, that you can go on the 
witness-stand and deliberately give testimony that condemns 
a human being to the living Hell of prison, or to death, and 
then not even remember his face?" 

Nelson paused before replying. Then he nodded. 

" Yes," said he. " That's the fact of the matter. In a 
year, you see, I make so many examinations and autopsies, 
do so much work for the coroners, and testify in so many 
criminal and civil cases that I simply can't retain all the de- 
tails. I am called for blood-tests, handwriting-examina- 
tions, bacteriological work, and a great many other branches. 
If I ever testified against you, sir, I must confess I've en- 
tirely forgotten you. Your prison experience has no doubt 
radically altered your appearance ; don't forget that." 

" I know it, doctor," answered Arthur. " And yet it 
seems hard to believe you can utterly lose track of a man 
whom you help send away for life." 

" For life, eh? How — how do you happen to be here, 
then?" 

" We'll discuss that later. The main thing now is that 
you don't remember me." 

" Not in the slightest. When I testify, the accused is not 
a man to me. He ceases to be a human being and becomes a 
case. I work without prejudice, favor, animus of any kind, 
strictly on the facts. Science knows neither good nor evil, 
but only truth," 

" Yes, doctor," Arthur rejoined. " I heard you remark 
as much in court the day you proved me — an innocent man 
— a murderer 1" 



338 THE ALIBI 

" I proved you a murderer, and you weren't ? Impossible ! 
Science never lies I " 

Arthur laughed bitterly, leaning forward and setting his 
left elbow on the table. 

"She doesn't, eh?" asked he. "You're wrong, doctor. 
Sometimes she lies horribly, wantonly, fatally. When she 
does lie, she goes the limit and then somel She went the 
limit on me that time, all right I " 

Nelson shook his head in n^^tion. 

** Impossible I " 

" See here, doctor ! " exclaimed the fugitive, shivering 
with emotion. " You say yourself you rely on facts wholly 
and entirely. Now suppose I can give you facts to show 
you were wrong? How many would you need to be con- 
vinced ? " 

" Only one," replied the physician. " One absolute fact, 
contra, will upset the finest hypothesis under heaven." 

" Very well, then I I win and you lose ! " declared Ar- 
thur, suddenly flushing a little as the blood leaped through 
his arteries. 

"How so?" 

" I've got that one fact I " 

"What is it?" 

" This ! " 

Speaking, he drew from his pocket Slayton's gray wig 
and flung it upon the table. 

"There's your fact, doctor! I win!" 

Absolutely at a loss to understand, the doctor regarded this 
peculiar exhibit with blinking eyes, owl-like through those 
round shell bows. For a moment he sat motionless. Then 
he took up the wig, studied it intently, turned it round and 
over, and finally dropped it once more on the table. He 
peered at Arthur with puzzled eyes, where, nevertheless, 
a certain nascent comprehension seemed to glimmer. 

"What does all this mean?" he suddenly demanded. 



WHEN SCIENCE LIES 339 

" You're talking riddles when I want and must have facts t 
Come, now ; no more of this beating round the hush 1 My 
time's valuable. You've already taken an hour of it. If 
you've got anything to say, man, for the love of Heaven say 
it I Who are you, and what does all this mean ? " 

Arthur's blue eyes held the doctor's black ones as he an- 
swered; 

" It means that the riddle of the Donald Mackenzie mur- 
der, in the Powhatan National Bank, two years and more 
ago, is solved at last. It means that I, Arthur Mansfield, 
accused of that murder, convicted — largely by your scien- 
tific evidence — and sentenced to life imprisonment, have es- 
caped, have found the proof of my innocence, and have 
brought it to youl It means — " 

" You, Arthur Mansfield?" cried the doctor, starting up 
with more emotion than he had felt in years. " Youf " 

" That's my name. I'm the man I " 

Nelson walked round the table, took Arthur's chin in 
his hand, and turned his face more to the light. For a long 
minute he studied it. Then he released his hold. 

" Yes ; I remember you now," said he. " The wide brows, 
the contour of the chin, straight nose and blue eyes — I re- 
call you. But with your head clipped, half a week's stubble 
on your face, the pallor — you used to be ruddy — and the 
awful clothes you've got there, can you blame me for not 
bavit^; 'made' you, as the professional saying is?" 

" Not in the least," answered the fugitive. " I think my 
disguise is rather good. It has got me here anyhow, right 
into the hands of authority, intelligent authority, through 
the dragnet of stupidity flung over the city. Glad you like 
it." 

" I do. It's excellent. So you're Mansfield, eh ? " 

" Yes." 

" You know, of course, you're also accused of killing Stay- 
ton?" 



340 



THE ALIBI 



"Naturally!" 

" You know I ought to call police headquarters and — " 

" Not till youVe heard the truth I I tdl you I'm just as 
innocent of this second murder as I was of the first one/' 

" Impossible I The facts are conclusive." 

** So they seemed in the Mackenzie case. Yet they lied. 
I wouldn't have come to you and put my head deliberately 
into the noose unless I'd had something pretty strong to 
clear me, would I?" 

"It doesn't seem so, as I said before," admitted the 
doctor, going back to his chair. " If I were a man given to 
popular locutions of the day, I'd say this entire situation gets 
my goat ! " 

" Wait till you hear the whole of it ! " exclaimed Arthur, 
striking the table with his fist. " Wait till you really know 
what that means — and that — and these ! " 

He pointed at the automatic lying there before them both, 
and at the wig, and then at the beach-comber's clothes he 
wore. 

" Wait till you hear and understand. My life now de- 
pends on making you believe the truth I " 

" If you can convince me what you say is true, have no 
fear," the doctor answered. " Now, your story I " 



CHAPTER XXXVI 

A SUUUONS FKOM HEADQUARTERS 

WTH an intensity of earnestness that bore weight 
even with the coldly scientific doctor, Arthur fixed 
his eyes on the physician's face. 
, " Convince you ? " he cried. " How can I help it when I 
tell the living truth ? " 

"Go on I Speak I" 

" I will. But first — tell me — one thing — " 

"Well, what is it?" 

" When she — Enid — left with her father just now, I 
was standing right inside that curtain there." 

He pointed at the hall-doorway. 

" She passed right near me, only a foot or two away." 

"Yes. What about it?" 

" I realized then, doctor, that I've got her to live for, if 
not myself. Realized it as never before. If I don't make 
good now she'll have this burden to carry all her life. Make 
good ? I've got to — for Enid t Now, tell me — tell me — " 

"Tell you what?" 

"What does she — think? What does she believe? I 
heard her say a few words there in the hall. Were they 
about me? Had you been discussing me and this last mur- 
der? What does Enid think about that? Does she still — 
trust me?" 

Nelson nodded reluctantly. 

" I'm sorry to tell you she does," he answered with r^ret. 

" Thank God f H she can still believe in me — " 

" It's most unfortunate that she can and does. You sec, 
she's been a patient of mine for some months now. Nerv- 



343 THE AUBI 

ous disorders caused by the tragedy. Just as I was getting 
her straightened out, why — this came along. 

" And now I'm very much afraid therc'U be work to be 
done all over again. Mansfield, if you're responsible for 
the wreckage of that white little, brave little woman's life, by 
God, sir 1 you deserve the chair! " 

The doctor spoke with unusual emphasis and brought bis 
fist down with a bang upon the table. Under that calm, 
unruffled exterior fires perhaps still burned; who could teQ? 

Arthur laid his left hand on the doctor's as it rested on the 
table. 

" Listen I " said he, his voice shaking. " I'm here to save 
her more than I am to save myself. Does that mean any- 
thing to you? Is there enough of the human being left in 
you, doctor, to grasp that? Do you understand me?" 

Nelson smiled dryly. His eyes quivered for just the frac- 
tion of a second, and a curious look altered his dry face. 

" I am perhaps more human than many suspect," he an- 
swered ; " but that's not to the point. Your motives are of 
no importance now. All I'm interested in is your story. 
Let's have it." 

Arthur gazed at him for a moment of tense silence. 
Then, paling still more, he began to speak. 

While the doctor listened intently, weighing each fact and 
the manner of its presentation, the fugitive recounted the 
long, strange and eventful sequence of misfortunes which 
had plunged him, totally innocent, into this nethermost pit 
of woe and exile and death. 

From the very beginning he told the tale — surely one 
of the strangest ever woven in this sad, mad world of ours 
— forgetting nothing, slighting nothing, excusing nothing, 
exa^erating nothing. He spoke clearly and well, with 
entire command of his narrative, developing it in perfect 
sequence, pouring out in half an hour the accunaolated rt- 
sult of months of study and reflection. 



A SUMMONS FROM HEADQUARTERS 343 

Carefully he explained his own first misdeed, his visit to 
Slayton's house, and all the events leading up to the fatal 
accusation. From time to time the doctor interrupted with a 
brief word or question to expand or illuminate some point 
of special interest. Deathly pale, shaking a little, holding 
fast with his uninjured hand to the edge of the table to 
steady himself, Arthur answered everything with clarity and 
force. 

His eyes, unnaturally blue with excitement, shone in that 
white face with startling vividness. They seemed burning 
with the fever of his vehemence. His voice cut the silence 
like a knife. Thus, winged with forces as of fire and steel, 
he drove his message home to Nelson. 

He told of his reflections while in Sing Sing, his piecings- 
out of all the evidence, and his conclusion, at the end — an 
irresistible conclusion — that the cashier himself had done 
the murder. He admitted his determination to escape and 
to avenge his wrong by killing the man who had thus wrecked 
him. He narrated his journey to Slayton's home at Oak* 
wood Heights in every detail, and followed it with a com» 
plete account of all the events at the house of the dead man 
and at the shack on the dunes. Thereafter he brought his 
story down to the immediate present. 

" You have it all, now, doctor," he concluded, panting a 
little with exhaustion and the eagerness of his tale. " Now 
the complete series of facts is in your hands. I couldn't 
possibly have invented any such story. Every investigation 
you or the police may undertake will bear it out. And, on 
top of all, I want you to recall one point of the trial, two 
years ago — a point that at the time completely baffled you 
— a point you had to ignore, even though you admitted it 
might hold the key to the entire mystery, as indeed it does ! " 

** What point? " asked Nelson, elbows on the table, hands 
joined and chin upon them, while his spectacled eyes bored 
penetrantly at Arthur. " What point do you refer to ? " 



344 THE ALIBI 

Arthur paused a weighty moment before replying. 

" You remember those six or eight gray hairs foand in 
the dead fingers of the old watchman?" he demanded. 

" Perfectly." 

" And you recall that of all the evidence they alone baf- 
fled you?" 

" Yes." 

" I can explain them now ! " 

" Explain them ? You mean — " 

" I mean they came from therel" 

And Arthur brought his fist down with a thud on the wig 
that lay before them. 

" From there ? " 

" Those hairs were pulled out of that wig, doctor. No 
doubt about it in this world. Slayton must have been dis- 
guised when he did the job. In some way or other Mac* 
kenzie got hold of that wig. In getting it away from him 
Slayton left a few hairs in the old man's clutch." 

" It couldn't be — and yet — " 

" It could and was, I tell you t " the fugitive insisted. 

" And yet it might." 

" No other possible hypothesis will explain those six hairs, 
doctor, in that dead grasp ! " 

Nelson pondered a moment, eying Arthur with sharp in- 
telligence. Mentally he was weighing the other's truth or 
guile. Could a man possibly have fabricated so ingenions 
and consistent a story and have capped the climax of it bj 
that theory of the wig? For a moment Nelson was almost 
convinced. 

But just on the verge of it his old belief and certaintr 
came rushing back — the wholly conclusive mass of damnii^ 
evidence that had swamped Arthur in the beginning now 
once more asserted its power over the physician. He shook 
his head and frowned. 

" You found that wig on Slayton's desk, you say ? " 



A SUMMONS FROM HEADQUARTERS 345 

"I didr" 

" That's too thin, Mansfield. You might have got it any- 
where, and — " 

" Make a microscopic comparison of some of these hairs 
and the ones that figured in the trial. That will be absolute 
proof, won't it?" 

" Not necessarily. You may have had the wig yourself 
the night of the murder. You seem to know a lot about it, 
Mansfield. How can I tell but what you took it when you 
were at Slayton's house and — " 

" And kept it hidden all this time and went and reclaimed 
it after my escape? Nonsense I " 

" Stranger things have happened, as matters of record. 
You're asking me to throw away a most tremendous mass of 
evidence, to stultify all my conclusions, to call the law a liar 
and a fool and to acquit you as blameless on the strength of 
what ? Just your own story and that wig 1 Ko, no, Mans- 
field; there must be more than that It's not enou^; it 
won't do 1 " 

Arthur clutched the table desperately. Beneath him the 
ground was falling fast away. His calculations had mis- 
carried ; his supreme effort had ended in doubt and impend- 
ing failure. A bitterness as of death gripped his soul. 
Ashen-faced and trembllt^, he leaned across the table. 

" Doctor," he exclaimed hoarsely, " As God lives, I swear 
to you that I'm telling the absolute, unvarnished truth. You 
can't give me up to the police now with even the doubt in 
your mind that I've awakened. You can't do it — you 
mustn't! I've established enough of a case so that I can 
and do demand protection — " 

" Justice is all I'm interested in," coldly interrupted the 
physician. 

" Protecti<Hi for a day or two until I can prove more. 
That's all I want ; just a couple of days in this house to pull 
together, collect some more proofs, go over the story with 



346 THE ALIBI 

you again and let you cross-examine me. I guarantee on 
ray honor that if you can pick hole or flaw in my story or my 
reasoning, or prove it false in any detail, I'll let you give me 
up without a struggle. We're not at the bottom of this case 
yet 

" Give me two days. That's all I ask. Do I get them or 
not?" 

The doctor considered, 

" I don't want to shelter a fugitive from justice nor yet 
compound a felony," he slowly answered ; " and yet I can't 
make up my mind to refuse you, Mansfield. Personally, I 
still believe you guilty of two cold-blooded murders. Still, 
certain factors puzzle me. Why you didn't kill that beach- 
comber who stood in your way I can't understand. A man 
who has done as I believe you have wouldn't have hesitated 
in that case. So much is in your favor. 

"Again" — and he checked the second hem on his 
forefinger — " your coming here at all is a favorable symptom 
— indication, I mean. Third, this wig has possibilities. 
On the strength of these points — yes; I'll give you shelter 
for two days. Do your best tUl Friday. After that well 
see." 

Arthur bowed his head, kept a minute's silence, and then 
raised his eyes to the doctor's again. 

" You'll make an examination of those hairs? " asked he. 

" Yes." I 

" Then I can ask nothing more." 

" Nor will I offer anything except to take care of your I 
hurts, as I would those of any other patient, and let you lie I 
hidden above-stairs. No word or sign of mine shall !»■ 
tray you. In return I demand a promise." 

"What promise?" 

" That you won't try to escape. Even though the verdid 
goes against you, youll stick? Youll take your medidne?* 



A SUMMONS FROM HEADQUARTERS 347 

"To run away would be a ctHifession of guilt — and I'm 
innocent I " 

"You'll stick?" 

"I will!" 

Nelson put out his right hand. Arthur's left grasped it in 
a firm clasp. 

" All right, then. Agreed I And now — " 

A sudden stridor of the telephone interrupted him. 

" Hello 1 Hello t" 

" Yes, this is the doctor speaking now." 

" Important developments, eh ? In what line? " 

" Yes, I can handle that, I guess. Chirography is some- 
thing of a hobby with me, you know. I say, Inspector! 
Have you any guaranteed sample of his writing? " 

" Oh, that letter to his wife, eh? That's right I forgot 
that Very well ; I'll be down at once." 

"Good-byl" 

The doctor hut^ up briskly, and swung toward Arthur 
with a smile. 

"Always something to do, you see," he commented. 
" I've got to go down to Headquarters. Don't be alarmed. 
I won't betray you. I think you're a consummate mur- 
derer, Mansfield, but my word's been given and I'll keep it 
You'll have the benefit of the doubt for a couple of days. 
If you can clear yourself nobodyll be more pleased than 
II" 

" You forget Enid, doctor. You forget me ! " 

The doctor vouchsafed no answer, but showed his guest 



348 



THE AUBI 



to a room at the back of the house on the third floor, and 
bade Arthur turn in. 

Five minutes later Nelson was in his car, whirling down- 
town to Mulberry Street in answer to the urgent summons 
of Inspector Burton of the Detective Bureau. 




CHAPTER XXXVII 

ANOTHER SUMMONING 

AS he briskly entered Burton's inner office the inspector 
looked up from the paper over which he had been 
bending with a powerful reading-glass, under the 
strong down-beating glow of an electric light. 

" Hello, doc I " he greeted. " You're the man I want to 
see. How's your goat? Tied up good and tight?" 

Nelson shook his head in n^ation. 

" It was an hour ago," he answered, layii^ aside his hat 
and coat ; " but to tell you the truth. Burton, I've just been 
through an experience that has mighty near cut its rope and 
let it out of the pen. But no matter about that. What's 
the trouble? Something urgent, I take it, from the way you 
'phoned me." 

" UTj;ent is right t Do you want it in sections, easy like, 
or all in a bunch?" 

" You might as well conimunicate it all at once. Burton. 
I don't believe much in the delaying of important matters. 
What have you got there, anyhow ? " 

He pointed at the paper on the desk, peered through his 
round glasses, and blinked, as was his habit. 

" Ask me I " said the inspector, scratching the back of his 
neck, which was thick and red. " If I knew, I wouldn't be 
sending for you, doc. I've either got the most amazing piece 
of foi^ery, plus the most ingenious piece of fiction, ever put 
across, or else you and I, and the courts, and the law, and 
the whole works are an A B C set of fools that ought to be 
walloped with a shingle and put to bed without our suppers. 
Now, then, which is it?" 

349 



350 THE ALIBI 

" What do you mean ? '* 

For all answer Burton jerked open a drawer of his desk 
and took out a letter. This he handed to Nelson. 

"Draw up that chair," he directed, "and sit down and 
look at that! Take a good look and tell me what it is ! " 

He handed the letter to Nelson, who obeyed. After a 
moment's inspection the doctor answered: 

" That is the letter Slayton wrote his wife on the night 
of the Mackenzie murder. The letter you mentioned to me 
just now over the wire. Why do you ask?" 

" It's his writing, positively? " 

" Positively. That was proved at the trial." 

" And you could identify it in another specimen? *' 

" Yes. That's part of my job, identifying writing." 

" Well, then ! " 

The inspector passed over a page of the writing he had 
been examining under the lens. 

" Now tell me, doc, what's thatf " 

With hardly more than a glance at it Nelson answered : 

" Slayton's writing, of course." 

"Sure of it?" 

" I'm never sure of anything till I've applied the methods 
of exact science ; but so far as humanly speaking goes, with- 
out the exhaustive tests of the chirographic expert, I'd back 
that writing for Slayton's against the world." 

" By God ! so would 1 1 " exclaimed the inspector, bring- 
ing his fist down hard on the desk. " That's what's got me 
all up in the air. That's what is going to put the double- 
crossed kibosh on the department and on all of us, make us 
look like six plugged nickels, and give us the ha-ha! from 
here to Hackney I If this was only a forgery, now! " 

" A forgery? What do you mean? You wish it were? " 

"Do I ? Some ! It would let us all out, then. But now 
— suffering cats, doc ! We're all of us in bad, from A to 
Z!" 



ANOTHER SUMMONING 351 

"What the devil are you driving at, man?" ejaculated 
Nelson, reading a few words of the paper he held in hand. 
" What's up, anyhow ? " 

" That paper there," the inspector answered in extreme de- 
jection, " was found late this p. m. by Jaffrey and Howard 
in the basement of Slayton's house at Oakwood Heights. 
They were di^ng out clues of the man that did up the 
cashier and got McNulty through the leg in that pistol-battle 
on the marsh. 

" Well, doc, down there in a kind of wood-bin under a lot 
of kindling, what do they get hold of but this thmg? No- 
body knows how it got there, but the outrageous part is that 
it was there with bells on, all right, all right." 

" Outrageous? How so? " queried Nelson, reading a few 
lines with contracted brows. 

" How sof Well, if it proves us a bunch of E. Z. Marks 
and come-ons, isn't that outrageous ? If it shows us up as a 
lot of muttonheads, and clears the man suspected on this last 
case — the man already safely 'buried' for life on the first 
case, track 13 and a washout — isn't that outrageous? If 
it — " 

" Hold on, there, hold on ! " cried the doctor, his im- 
personal face reddening slightly, a sure sign of the great- 
est degree of anger he ever permitted himself to enjoy. 
" What are you driving at anyhow ? What do you 
mean ? " 

" Read that and see ! " cried Burton, shoving two more 
sheets into the doctor's hands. " I just gave you that unim- 
portant part there for you to ' make ' the writing. Now 
you've got the whole infernal thing. Read that and tell me 
you wouldn't give your hand to have had it burned before 
those two lunatics found it and read it all through and 
brought it here to me, grinning like chessy-cats, confound 

" You mean it's something that possibly may reverse the 



352 THE ALIBI 

case and work some measure of tardy justice in an irrepar- 
able wrong ? " 

*' Yes, damn it ! you've said it ! And where do wc get off 
then, Fd like to know ? " 

The doctor surveyed him a long moment through his 
glasses with a scorn so withering that even Burton's 
thick hide smarted. Then with a marvelously eloquent 
*' Hmmm 1 " he found the b^[inning of Slayton's extraor- 
dinary confession and started reading. 

Hastily his keen eyes passed down the paragraphs, absorb- 
ing the dead cashier's farewell to his wife, the statement 
of the causes of his trouble, the explanation of the " plant " 
to convict Arthur, and the confession of the murder itself. 

They paused a while over the matter of the gray wig. 
The doctor's face grew coldly analytical as he read and 
re-read this paragraph, weighing its truth, unmoved by 
any blame or ridicule that might fall upon himself for the 
terrible miscarriage of justice he had engineered. Burton 
meanwhile f tuned and muttered oaths, lighted a cigar, for- 
got to smoke it, and, finally standing up, began pacing the 
floor in a growing rage. 

" Sit down, you idiot 1 " snapped the doctor. ** You keq) 
me from understanding just how big a fool I've been my- 
self ! " 

Burton subsided, and the physician continued his reading, 
ending with the personal details about the disposition of the 
dead man's property and his urgent request to have the con- 
fession put at once into the hands of the district attorney. 

When he had quite finished he sat there pondering a sQent 
minute, then glanced sharply at Burton. 

" It's genuine 1 " he snapped. " We're all damned fools! 
The boy was innocent all the time — as innocent of Mac- 
kenzie's murder that he was ruined for and served two years 
of Hell for as he is of Slayton's death that he's being 
hounded for this minute I We're all a pack of blazing luna- 



ANOTHER SUMMONING 353 

tics and have been all the time. Slayton made monkeys of 
us all, from you and me right up to the district attorney 
himself. And now — " 

" And now ! Now that Jaff rey and Howard have read 
this, how are we going to stand from under?" Burton de- 
manded, raging. 

" We aren't 1 " 

"If they hadn't read it we could damn soon make 'way 
with it and not be laughing-stocks for all — " 

" You cur ! " 

Nelson wheeled on the inspector suddenly with something 
very like real, human rage. Right in Burton's astonished 
face the doctor shook the confession till the paper crackled. 

'* You cur 1 " he cried again, his eyes blazing. "Here a 
good, clean, honest boy has been through Hell and damna- 
tion and at this very moment is sick, wounded, desolate and 
wrecked — has lost name, place, prospects, and even his 
chance at happiness with a girl that is a girl — all because 
science played us a scurvy trick and because Slayton, the 
black crook, made suckers of us all! 

" Here all this happens, and now we know the truth ; and 
instead of crying : * My God 1 How can we make it right 
with him ? ' you whine and cringe and shiver for your rot- 
ten reputation, and want to make 'way with the evidence 
and think how you can stand from under! 

" Bah I You sicken me ! And to think the detection of 
crime and the administration of justice ever touches your 
hands 1 Holy heavens, what a farce ! Look here, Burton ! 
In the course of my work I have to inspect microscopic speci- 
mens, some of them only one one-thousandth of an inch in 
diameter or less — often much less. Beside your heart and 
soul those specimens are whales, mammoths, m^[alosauri! 
Now you know what I think. Good night! " 

Without another word, but with a look of infinite scon 
the doctor seized his hat and strode toward the door. Open 



354 THE ALIBI 

mouthed, Burton stared after him, a kind of sickly, ashen 
hue spreading over his usually red wattles. 

Then, all at once energized by the sight of those papers 
in the doctor's hands now leaving his possession, the in- 
spector sprang up with a cry. 

" Here, doc I Where you going with that confession ? " 
he shouted angrily. 

''Going? Homel" 

"You aren't going to take that? You can't! It's—" 

"It's mine for the present 1" retorted Nelson, turning 
at the door and shaking the papers at him. ''Perhaps 
you'd like to have me repeat what you've just said, ch? 
No? AU right then! Keep stiU!" 

The door banged, and he was gone. Burton stared round 
in dum founded amaze, then sank back into his desk-chair, 
let both arms fall limp, and murmured: 

" Well, by God ! " 

Nelson meantime was hastening to the telephone. 

" Hello ! 24679 Riverside I " 

Impatiently he waited, the papers still clutched in his 
hand, which, despite all his scientific aplomb, now shook a 
little. 

" The cur ! " he muttered. " The swine! *' 

Somebody answered the 'phone. 

" Hello, hello ! Is this Mr. Chamberlain ?'* 



" Yes. See here, Chamberlain, has Enid gone to bed yet? 
No? All right. Something of the most extreme impor- 
tance has just happened. No, no ; I can't tell you over the 
'phone. Won't under any conditions. No; it can't wait 
till morning. Positively can't I " 

" Now see here. Chamberlain ! I've got to see you and 
Enid at my office immediately. It's only 1045. You can 



ANOTHER SUMMONING 



355 



come down in the car in no time. I insist. Hurt her? 
Heaven bless you, man, no! No, no, no! I prescribe 
it, I tell you! I'm her physician, am I not? This is part 
of my treatment ! The most important part I've ever given 
her!" 

• •••••••• 

" It doesn't matter whether you understand or don't un- 
derstand. I tell you I've got to see Enid to-night, right 
away, and you've got to come with her! No, no; this is 
imperative ! " 



"All right, then. I'll be there. Good-by! Mind now, 
you both come as quick as the Lord will let you, or, by Jove, 
I throw up the entire case! Good-by!" 

Nelson hung up with a bang, stuffed the papers into his 
pocket, and — blowing his nose rather hard, the while his 
solemn eyes winked with unusual rapidity — hastened out 
to his car, jumped into it, and, with a single command: 
" Home ! Quick ! " slammed the door as though that act 
afforded him an infinite relief. 



CHAPTER XXXVIII 

THE GATES OF PARADISE 

SPED swiftly homeward by his powerful machine, 
Nelson flung off hat and coat in the front hall, and, 
with unusual celerity — for he was of deliberate 
tendencies — mounted the stairs to the room he had given 
the fugitive. 

The house was still. Mr^. Nelson had already gone 
to bed. The servants had departed to their own place. 
Through the mansion calm and quiet reigned, as batted 
the well-bred house of well-bred people. Nothing could 
have been farther from the spirit and the tradition of that 
house than any strong emotion, any disturbance, anything, 
in fact, but just well-ordered rationality and a harmonious 
peace. 

Nelson rapped twice on Arthur's door. 

*' Come I " sounded a voice. 

He entered. The fugitive was sitting on the edge of the 
bed, still dressed, with his left arm clasping his injured right 
and his head bent in dejection. 

"Hello! Not in bed yet, sir?" demanded Nelson, try- 
ing hard to give his voice the same impersonal tone it had 
possessed in his previous conversation with the boy. "I 
don't allow my patients to disobey me! What does this 
mean ? " 

" It means that nothing matters," answered Arthur. ** I 
was just sitting here thinking, that's all. Thinking how 
infernally peculiar it is that a man can tell the truth, the 
exact truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, 
and the whole world will rise up and call him *Liar!' 



THE GATES OF PARADISE 357 

Yes, the whole world — even its best thinkers and keenest 
analyzers, like you, doctor. Isn't it worth pondering?" 

Nelson blinked and rubbed his chin. He was boiling in- 
wardly with desire to haul out that confession and thrust it 
into Arthur's hands with a: 

"Look! Look here! You're free!" 

But he restrained himself. He had his plan, had Nel- 
son. Somewhere under that cold, formal and precise ex- 
terior still lurked hidden fires. Beneath the mask of science 
still lived a man. 

" Worth thinking about, isn't it, doctor ? " the fugitive re- 
peated, fixing a keen blue gaze on his host. " It's the one 
great problem that has been gnawing at my vitals for two 
years, and now is sharper than ever because the events of 
the past few days have doubled its scope. Seems to me a 
man might go insane stewing over a thing like that, an in- 
justice like that, and — " 

" Please try to forget it, Mansfield," the doctor begged, 
lifting an inhibiting hand. "What I'm here for just now 
is to ask you a question or two — a purely hypothetical 
question, you know. Suppose by any means or other you 
should be cleared of the two charges now resting on your 
name and be rehabilitated in public estimation, what at- 
titude would you assume toward the world? What pro- 
fession would you follow — banking again, or some other ? 
And — hmmm, hmmm ! — in regard to Enid — Miss Cham- 
berlain — " 

" I don't see what you want to turn the iron in my 
wounds for," Mansfield answered slowly. " You don't be- 
lieve my story yourself, and surely if you don't nobody else 
will. You're just holding up a kind of dazzling bait before 
me to see me snatch at it and then jerk it away again. 
That's not fair and it's not kind. If I'm condemned, let me 
alone. Don't make me think!" 

" But I am going to make you think ! " retorted the doc- 



3S8 THE ALIBI 

tor with some heat. "I didn't say your case was hope- 
less. I simply said that I couldn't quite accept your version 
as yet. Suppose I should to-morrow and should succeed 
in clearing you, what then?" 

"Oh, then," said Arthur, his voice breaking, his chest 
beginning to heave, " then — " 

" Would you be vindictive and revengeful and try to get 
square with those that have wronged you, or would you 
turn your back on the past and face the future with a brave 
heart?" 

Arthur pondered a minute, then shook his head. 

" I don't know," he answered slowly. " Heroes in novels 
always forgive and forget, but I'm not a hero and this isn't 
a novel. I'm only a human being and this is fact, here and 
now, in New York State. While I was up the river there, 
nothing mattered but cutting Slajrton's heart out. But 
when I escaped and really saw him dead I found I didn't 
hate him after all. I could almost forgive him. 

" I suppose if I were free I'd let things slide. The thing 
rd really like to attack would be the procedure itself that 
made such a hellish thing possible in my case and lots of 
other cases, and that still makes it possible." 

"You mean you'd quit banking and go in for law?" 

" Yes. And by God, doctor, if I ever could get where 
I could hit a wallop at this way of doing business I'd hit it 
— hard ! " 

He brought his fist down on his knee with a resounding 
thump. Nelson covertly smiled, his eyes bright with an 
unusual joy. 

"And Enid?" he asked. "You still— *' 

"Don't, doctor! Don't, don't, don't 1" pleaded Arthur, 
dropping his face into his hand. " Please don't talk about 
her — please let me alone now. No more, no more — 
please ! " 

Below-stairs the trilling of a bell caught the doctor's ear. 



THE GATES OF PARADISE 359 

With one long, appraising look at his bowed shoulders and 
bent head, the doctor laid a hand on Arthur's arm. 

" See here 1 " said he. " In five minutes, not before, you 
come down to my office. I want to see you there. Re- 
member! Five minutes. And wait there till I come. 
Will you?" 

Arthur nodded. 

"What for?" he asked in a choked voice. 

" No matter. I have your promise. I want to go over 
the case again with you. Don't forget now I " 

He left the room and, with a step almost as light as a 
boy's, his face radiating sentiments for many years quite 
foreign to its scientific aspect, ran down the stairs to an- 
swer the bell. 

" My dear doctor, what in the name of all that's erratic 
does this mean?" demanded Chamberlain as he and Enid 
came into the dim-lit hallway. '* To summon us in such 
haste, at such an extraordinary hour of the night and on 
the pretext that it's part of Enid's regimen — " 

The doctor laid a hand on the old banker's arm. 

" My dear Chamberlain," said he, " you will tremendously 
oblige me by not asking any questions just now. Do me a 
huge favor, will you?" 

" Anything you ask, my dear doctor ; anything you ask." 

"All right! Go into the smoking-room there and shut 
the door and help yourself to the best weeds I've got, and 
stay there till I come. Will you?" 

" How extraordinary ! " exclaimed the banker while Enid 
stared in amaze. She was clad, as before, in the soft gray 
foxskin with the little rosebud toque. Her eyes, very dark 
blue — or were they black? — widened with astonishment. 
Not only was the doctor's request a thing to wonder at, 
but the doctor's whole personality seemed to have under- 
gone some indefinable change, some rejuvenescence not to 
be accounted for, some subtle and benign expansion. 



36o THE AUBI 

"Why, doctor!" cried the girl slowly. "Whatever in 
the world — ? " 

" No questions, please ! " dictated Nelson, taking the 
banker by the arm and leading him toward the smoke- 
room. " My time is very limited. I only ask you to trust 
me for once — and to obey." 

When Chamberlain, still protesting, had been duly and 
safely sequestrated, the doctor returned to Enid. 

" My dear," said he, laying a hand on her glove, '* will 
you come into the library?" 

Understanding nothing, she nodded assent. He fol- 
lowed her and closed the door. The other door between the 
library and the office stood ajar. To this he went and closed 
it also. Then he returned to her, standing on the Shiraz 
rug beside the table with its book-racks, its leather mat, its 
opalescent lamp which beautifully and graciously shaded 
the oval of her cheek with delicate, warm tones. 

'* Enid," said he, " you have been my patient for a long 
time now, and I feel that I know you almost as your father 
knows you. I am no longer a young man. You can confide 
in me. As your physician I am also your confessor. I am 
going to ask you a question or two, and you must answer 
them truthfully. On those answers everything depends." 

She said no word, but looked at him in silent appraisal 
as though striving with her deep gaze to fathom and to 
read his hidden meaning. For a moment their eyes sought 
each other. Then, blinking nervously, the doctor recom- 
menced : 

" Let me hypothecate a case, Enid. But first let me ask 
you again whether you still cling to your idea that Arthur 
was inno#ent of that first murder and that he is likewise 
innocent of this second one?" 

She nodded g^vely. 

" It isn't an idea," she answerd. '* It's absolute faith. 
Positive conviction based on a better knowledge of him 



THE GATES OF PARADISE 361 

than any you or anybody else can have. Yes ; I still believe 
him innocent. Why do you ask?" 

Nelson, thus put to the question direct, stammered a 
moment, rather unprofessionally moved, and finally an- 
swered : 

" Why ? Because I want to make an hypothesis, as I said 
a moment ago. Listen carefully and answer with abso- 
lute sincerity. Will you?" 

"I Willi" 

Enid had gone a little pale, it seemed; but her eyes held 
steady and her voice betrayed no tremor as she said again : 

"I will! What's your hypothesis?" 

" This 1 " answered Nelson, showing signs of nervousness 
as he heard a step upon the stair — a step that entered the 
office and stopped there. " Suppose, my dear Enid, that 
any such improbable series of incidents should arise, or 
any fact become known which might entirely exculpate 
Arthur Mansfield; and suppose you were to see him not 
as an idealized man, but a cruelly wronged, wounded, 
broken and shattered wreck of his one-time self — a wreck, 
yet still a wreck possessing all the possibilities of the former 
man, and far, far more, because now he had become a man 
in thought and character and a boy no longer, and — 
and—" 

The doctor, his rhetoric entirely tangled, with no pos- 
sibility of ever going straight again unless the Gordian knot 
were cut by a fresh beginning, paused, drew out his hand- 
kerchief, and swabbed his brow. 

" Bless my soul ! " said he. '* It's terribly warm in here, 
to-night!" 

He glanced at the thermometer hanging on the chandelier. 
It registered 61. He made another try: 

" Suppose this man were to appear as a fugitive, inno- 
cent yet hunted — a fugitive in preposterous clothing, all 
rags and dirt — more or less — and with his arm broken^ 



362 THE ALIBI 

and with a wounded head — a head all clipped and shaven 
in the infamous prison way — but innocent, you under- 
stand, and perfectly true to you — not a thought of any- 
thing but fidelity, you understand — ^hmmm! hmmm — " 

The doctor was becoming extraordinarily hoarse. Un- 
able to continue, he thrust a hand into his breast-pocket and 
fetched out a folded paper, closely written. 

"Where is he, doctor?" cried the girl in a low, eager 
voice, seizing the doctor's hand in both her own. 

She had begun to tremble all over with an unconquer- 
able nervous chill. 

"Where is my boy? Where? Wheref" 

Nelson thrust the paper into her hand and opened the 
door into the office. 

" Enid," he choked, " take this, and God bless you ! He 
doesn't know what it is any more than you do. Read it 
— together — " 

At sound of Enid's voice, Arthur turned his head. He 
stood up, chin high, shoulders square, a sudden blaze of 
wonder and of glory in his eyes. 

" Enid ! " he cried, his voice thrilling like a bugle-call. 

" My boy, my boy! What have they done to you? Oh, 
Arthur! What have they done?" 

In her furs and warmth and beauty she ran to him, ragged 
and torn and wan. 

" Don't forget to read that paper ! " shouted the doctor 
huskily, then shut the door. "The young fools! The 
damned young fools I " he swore, tears streaming down his 
face — the face so long a stranger to tears. " If I were 
given to popular locutions, I'd say this — gets my — eter- 
nal — " 

The smoking-room door swung open and Chamberlain 
mildly appeared, his benign old face haloed by that splendid 
mane of white. 

'*Eh? ^WVv^Ll's^llthis?" he demanded "By Jove, doc- 



THE GATES OF PARADISE 



363 



tor, what's happened? Where's Enid? You're crying? 
Here, here 1 What's the matter with my girl ? " 

He started toward the office, terrified, but Nelson seized 
his arm and dragged him back. 

" Keep out o' that, you old fool 1 " he croaked, letting the 
tears run unheeded and unasliamed. "You were young 
once yourself, and I — even I am hiunan — in spots 1 No, 
you don't, sir ! Not a step nearer that office-door ! 

"Who are we to intrude at such a time? We're only 
human, you and I. And those two, Enid and Arthur — 
she all faith and he as innocent, by God! as the babe un- 
born — they're with the immortals at the Gates of Para- 
dise 1 " 






THE EKD 



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